Let me set a scene for you. Me, on my couch with my laptop, surrounded by scraps of paper with numbers jotted in what could resemble a haphazard schedule of sorts. I look like I’m being productive, but on the inside I’m feeling deflated. Rather than having a screen full of freshly typed words, my laptop is helping me scroll through various social media feeds. I tell myself I’m looking for the motivation to do…to run, to train, to write, to cook, to clean.
Motivation, please come to me!
As I’m scrolling through Imgur I come across a pixelated screenshot where someone is laying down the cold hard truth about motivation. How perfectly timed. Of course, in true Imgur fashion, the text was full of colorful language so I’ll paraphrase.
In a music forum someone posed the question “how do you keep yourself motivated to practice?” The noteworthy response went something like this…
“Forget motivation. It is fickle + unreliable. It is better to cultivate discipline than to rely on motivation. Force yourself to do things. Force yourself to get out of bed + practice. Force yourself to work on it.
Motivation is fleeting + easy to rely on because it requires no concentrated effort to get. Motivation comes to you, you don’t even chase after it.
Discipline is reliable because you must acquire it on your own.
The question isn’t how to keep yourself motivated, it’s how to train yourself to work without it.”
Wow. Just, wow.
I think we all know those words to be factual in nearly every aspect of life. This forum was all about musical training + practice, but I think we can make this all about trail running + adventure training without even changing out any of the verbage.
We, as humans, tend to sit about waiting for motivation to strike us into action or seek out something inspirational to rekindle our motivational flame. While that’s easy, it’s also incredibly frustrating because it rarely results in mind blowing results. We end up spending far more time waiting for motivation to find us than actually doing with the motivation once we acquire it.
This struck home in ways that terrify + excite me. This simple statement explained why my motivation to run, write + create has been eluding me. I’ve been waiting for it to show up on my doorstep, offering its pushy powers up to me while asking for nothing in return. No wonder it hasn’t shown up…
Discipline, on the other hand, is something I can go after, wrangle + eventually befriend as a habit. That’s what I need to succeed. Quite frankly, discipline is exactly what we see in the athletes we look to for motivation. They’re not out there chasing down negative splits or running repeats up steep, technical trails because they’re feeling a tingling motivation to do so. They’re doing it because they know their bodies need them to dig up the discipline to train in order to perform come race day.
After pondering this from my couch I forced myself to get up, tug on some running shorts + lace up my shoes. I hit the trails, unsure of what to expect from my undertrained body, but on a mission to find that blissful happy on trails…not because motivation told me it’d be worth it, but because I knew I needed to make my body get out there to find it.
Spoiler Alert: it worked. My tester run what was supposed to top out around 4 miles ended at my backdoor 7 miles later. Not because I felt awesome the whole time, but because I stumbled upon a new trail + decided to chase after whatever it had to offer.
This puts my kinda, sorta, maybe training plan for an upcoming 50 miler into perspective. It’s not about creating a training plan that’ll motivate me to get outside. Instead, it’s about developing a training regime that is realistic, allowing my forced discipline to become a sustainable habit. At this rate I just might be signing up for races again next year…
For more from Heidi on this topic, read In Search of Discipline.