Is it really motivation?

Whether it’s on a poster, Instagram post, refrigerator magnet, or the topic of a speech, motivation is all around us. If you look on social media, there are over 100 MILLION posts tagged with #motivation, and motivational speaking and writing is a multi-million dollar industry.

But are they right? Are we all lacking the motivation to take the hard road change our circumstance? Do unhealthy individuals lack the motivation to change what they eat and start exercising? Does the employee who hates his job lack the motivation to quit and find a new one?

The answer is no. There is plenty of motivation for anyone to change. The employee who hates her job has plenty of motivation: she’s miserable and hates her job, that’s motivation enough. The unhealthy, sedentary individual also has ample motivation to change their condition: they’re going to die early, and live a less enjoyable and productive life. That is also plenty of motivation.

What is it then? What are we missing? It’s discipline. We have the motivation, we just lack the discipline. No one is exempt from this. Even the most successful, happy, accomplished individuals have moments in which they lack the discipline to make the best choice. It’s the human condition.

Problem solved! All we need to do is replace all of those motivation stickers, posters, refrigerator magnets, and speakers with discipline, and we’re good, right? Well…no. If only it were that easy. Which would you rather hear: 1) “You just lack motivation,” or 2) “You just lack discipline”? Everyone will go with option 1. No one wants to hear that they lack discipline. It implies a character flaw, and it means that we would have to address a problem within ourselves. Motivation is external. We can ‘go get it’ – we can ‘find it.’ But no one can say that they’re going to find some discipline. There is no magnet, poster, or speaker that will teach us discipline. We must create it within ourselves.

Recognizing lack of discipline is not the end. It is the beginning. When we accept that as our problem, the solution becomes clear. When we recognize that we must do what’s difficult and uncomfortable in the short term to achieve happiness over time, the journey begins.