By Dana Gornall
I feel like I go through Winter with my head down, wasting the days and waiting for Spring.
I live in northern Ohio, and truthfully, we have had a mild winter so far, but it’s still cold, it’s still dark and dreary most days, and I just want it to be warm. I’ve had a hard time waking up early these days, hitting my snooze button or even just shutting it off altogether. In the evenings my eyes are getting heavy by 10:00, sometimes even at 9:30, and I dread going out even for little errands. I just want to hibernate.
I look ahead on the calendar and count the days until the temperatures will begin climbing again.
I don’t want to waste the days—we have such limited time in our lives. Who wants to squander precious time in front of the television or scrolling social media? I read something recently that has stuck with me: motivation is rare, what you need is discipline.
We all talk about motivation. We crave the motivation to go to the gym, to clean out that closet, to start healthy eating or at times…to even to start dinner. “I don’t have the motivation,” we say. “Where is my motivation?”
Discipline isn’t a fun word, like motivation.
When we think of motivation we might envision one of those posters that were so popular in the 90s. You know the ones. A shadowed figure climbing a mountain with electric blue font urging us to climb higher, an outstretched hand reaching toward a star pushing us to reach farther, a silhoutted female jumping in the air on a beach at sunrise impressing us to live fully. But when we hear the word discipline, we see authority, we see structure, we see rules—no pretty pictures. It’s no wonder we shy away from discipline.
In reality though, it is discipline that pulls us across the line. We don’t get from Point A to Point B from motivation. If we did, most likely we would never leave Point A. We get there because we push past the desire to stay comfortable.
If you have ever done this before, you know. You don’t want to meditate every day for 10 minutes. You have other things to do like laundry or dishes, or maybe you are engrossed in Cobra Kai. You don’t want to get up early because it’s dark and cold and your bed is super comfy. You don’t want to cook a healthy lunch because the drive-thru is right there or the Door Dash button is calling your name and it’s just so much easier. You don’t want to go to Yoga because it is cold outside and you are so much more comfortable on the couch.
But if you have ever pushed past that nudge to stay exactly how you are right then, you know what it means to use self-discipline. And you know the rewards that come later when you do. So how do we apply discipline when motivation has gone missing?
Baby, baby, baby steps
This is something we all know, yet when we are in the midst of that unmotivated pull, it’s easy to forget. Mountains are so much harder to tackle when we look at the whole mountain. Start small. We tell ourselves: okay, I know you really want to Door Dash, but instead I will make a simple meal. I don’t want to meditate for 15 minutes, but let me sit for five and see how that goes. I learned this trick from Marla Cilley, the woman who started the Flylady program, a home organization process for busy families. She would suggest starting with a simple task like just cleaning out your kitchen sink, or setting a timer for 15 minutes and cleaning until the timer went off. Seems simple, yet psychologically it works. When we know the task is small, it’s easier to push past the voices that tell us to wait until tomorrow.
Find at least one supportive person
It doesn’t have to be a tribe. It doesn’t have to be a Facebook group (although it can be). It doesn’t have to be your entire family or everyone you work with. Just at least find one person that is on your side and it makes that step from here to there so much easier. Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, noted this in one of his TED talks. “Our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community,” Waldinger said.
Having an accountability buddy helps us stay focused, gives us the opportunity to vent our feelings, and mostly, keeps us accountable—which is the reason for that supportive person. Someone who can cheer us on when we are feeling low makes a huge difference is achieving our goals. Not to mention, knowing we aren’t in it alone fuels that discipline.
Can’t find anyone? There is even an app now that can help with that.
Remind yourself why you started
This has been a big thing lately: Find Your Why. Want to be healthy for your kids? Want to meditate to lower stress levels? Want to get a better job so you can move to a new place? Whatever your reason is, find it. This will help you keep going when you are wanting to hit snooze. Sometimes it isn’t obvious. Sometimes we think we know our why. “I want to look better so that’s why I go to the gym.” But maybe the why is deeper than that. Maybe your why is: “I want to be stronger and healthier so as I get older I can stay active.”
Look deeply and see what your reason really is, and then write it down. If you like, you can post reminders on your phone or put it in a journal. On the days when you can’t find that motivation, look at your why.
I really do hate Winter. I’m not always motivated…as a matter of fact, I am hardly ever motivated to do things when it’s cold and dark. But with a little discipline (and maybe a little help from my friends) I keep going. I hope you do too.
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