There's confusion and misconceptions around motivation and discipline. That's why I decided to put the confusion to rest because there is a way to Be Stronger Than Your Excuses.
A follower of mine posted a meme on LinkedIn and it said
"Discipline Equals Freedom"
Instantly, I recognized the quote was by Jocko Willink, of which I'm a huge fan. This started a discussion between us about motivation vs discipline and the confusion between the two.
Often, sales professionals I coach will opine,
Today, I'm just not motivated Christine. (decision made by their feelings)
When I ask what system they have in place to make their day successful, the answer I usually get is
I prefer a loose schedule (decision made by their lack of discipline)
Well that's my problem. I'm not motivated to do the activities on my schdeule. (decision made by their feelings and lack of discipline)
Herein lies the confusion between motivation vs discipline. People confuse motivation as an act of discipline. It is not. Motivation is a decision made by a feeling. Discipline is a decision made by a habit. Motivation is nice, but discipline doesn't require motivation. Effective habits do require discipline. Discipline is having a system of rules (habits) in place that lead to success. That's why Jocko equates Discipline Equals Freedom.
Here's the Lie
We've been told over and over feelings matter.
How do you feel about this?
What's your feeling about that?
Even in coaching certification classes, you're constantly taught to "check-in" with the person on how this or that feels to them. I stopped coaching like that because it produces ZERO results!
The messaging over the last 30 years is all about "feelings" and being "motivated". Who wants to talk about discipline..that's hard! If you make emotionally fueled decisions, you'll always be chasing the elusive motivation lie. YOU are MORE than your feelings, and YES being disciplined is hard but discipline WILL bring you the results that no amount of motivation can produce. Motivation is not sustainable and you know this to be true.
It's no wonder there's so much mental illness and stress in the world. People have no idea how to be mentally tough. My dear dad called it "wearing your heart on your sleeve." People that are easily offended or have a difficult time being corrected, have an ego problem fueled by their sensitivities. They wear their heart on their sleeve. And they also have a difficult time with discipline because it "feels too hard." Yes, I actually heard that one from a client.
Discipline helps you to be stronger than your excuses.
It's not motivation you need to complete the activities on your schedule, what you need is the discipline to stay on task when you become bored!
For example, I'll never be motivated to edit the sales training videos I write, shoot, and produce for business owners' sales teams. The task is very time-consuming and tedious. However, when I need a break I take 10 minutes. Then when the alarm goes off after 10 minutes, discipline kicks in, not motivation to get back to work. Yes, I use an alarm whenever I take a break and I suggest you do too. I learned the hard way if I don't, I'll piddle away two hours on nothing that moves my dream forward.
When coaching on mindset, my focus is to help you create effective systems to train your brain. Your brain needs to be trained to follow a discipline. If not, your behavior is scattered throughout the workday reacting to whatever grabs your attention. Suddenly half the day is gone and you wonder why you haven't accomplished a thing.
In Jocko Willink's book, Extreme Ownership, he explains
Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say first alarm clock because I have three...that way, there is no excuse for getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win-you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.
Notice Jocko didn't say motivate yourself to get out of bed. That's because motivation does not last and as I said earlier, it's not sustainable. You can listen or watch a podcast that has you excited, air pumping, and jumping around it's so motivating. 30 minutes later you've crashed and started searching for more motivation to stay pumped. Or perhaps you've gone to speaking events where they have the most influential thought leaders pumping you up so you leave charging out of the arena. When you later walk into your office, the fires you need to put out extinguish all your excitement and motivation.
A system anchors discipline
It's not the motivation you need. What you need is a system. Having a system in place anchors the discipline. Without a system, there is no discipline. Just like without a process, there is no progress.
If you still have some doubts, Jocko goes on to say...
Waking up early was the first example I noticed in the SEAL Teams in which discipline was really the difference between being good and being exceptional. I saw it with some of the older, experienced SEALs. Those who were at work before anyone else were the ones who were considered the best operators....and they were the most respected. It all tied into discipline.
Jocko describes discipline as "an intrinsic self-discipline-a matter of personal will." If you're not familiar with Jocko, Google him. He is an ex-Navy SEAL and still gets up every single morning, 7 days a week at 4:30 AM. He takes a picture of his watch EVERY SINGLE DAY and posts it on Instagram! He is DISCIPLINED. Just click on the image below and it will take you to his Instagram post.
The Habit Loop
When you feel bored, you look for ways to motivate yourself and often times it's the distractions that grab your focus first. Boredom doesn't feel good, but looking at Facebook or Twitter gives you a reward from the boredom. So it works like this:
Cue-> You're bored and are easily distracted.
Craving-> A notification bell rings on your phone. You think "Gee something has happened!" (especially if you are a news or sports junkie!)
Response-> You pick up the phone to read the notification
Reward-> Now you're totally focused on Twitter and you like it! You're no longer bored!
And this unconscious habit loop repeats constantly in your life in so many different ways, ALL through your day! Now you understand how the day can get away from you so easily. Begin to raise your level of awareness and catch yourself in a semi-conscious automatic habit. See how many you can catch during the day. I'll bet you'll be surprised how many rob your time and effectiveness.
There are two excellent books written on habits: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear. I've written about habits here and have Youtube videos on Charles Duhigg's research here. (WARNING: it's one of my first videos so watch it..you'll get a good chuckle!)
These books, including Extreme Ownership, are excellent sources of how effective habits can help develop discipline. Getting up at 4:30 am for Jocko Willink is such a deep-seated habit he no longer requires the discipline he once needed because it's now automatic. This is the power of creating effective habits anchored by discipline.
When I was in 6th grade I began playing the trumpet in the CYO band because my best friend Mary Ann Wildman joined the band playing trumpet. After the excitement actually wore off, the tedious task of learning to play the trumpet began. For two frustrating weeks, I tried to play. During the third week, I had long since given up trying to produce a beautiful note, I was huffing and puffing to spit out any sound, but the horn remained mute. Convinced there was something wrong with the instrument, I insisted that dad take the freak'n instrument back and get me one that worked! Dad, in his wisdom, said there was nothing wrong with the trumpet, I wasn't able to play it, challenging me in his way. The following Saturday was band practice, and dad agreed to give me private lessons if I could produce any sound by Saturday. Challenged accepted! My poor parents had to endure some of the loudest more hideous sounds for months on end until I was able to play a decent simple tune. When I began taking private lessons, my parents had to endure endless hours of me practicing scales over and over and over.
Practice pays off
I continued to play throughout high school and well into my adult life. This is how I learned persistence, commitment, discipline, and practice, practice practice. The hard work paid off and I became a pretty decent trumpet player.. better than most.
So when I watch Chris Botti or Alison Balsom perform, I see the years of training, hours of daily practice, sacrifices, and pain to become the best. Going to a symphony concert, the beauty of the performance reminds me of the endless rehearsals, learning a new piece of music, cleaning my instrument, the smell of valve oil, and the excitement of performing. Hearing musicians perform or watching elite athletes play sports is a reminder that we're not born talented, we become talented through discipline, practice, and more practice. And that's the same for elite sales professionals.
Discipline is the key for a Navy SEAL, elite athlete, first chair trumpeter, world-famous opera singer, gold medal Olympic swimmer, and a top sales professional. You are elite. Every day show up with the behavior of an elite sales professional. Motivation is fleeting and for the weak-minded. You're tougher than that. Be stronger than your excuses. Be disciplined.
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