Season 2 Episode 7

Shoutout to my girlfriend for giving me the idea for this episode!

 

The idea behind this episode is not to try and provide listeners with a burst of energy or enthusiasm, in the same way a motivational video would. It’s to share the idea that perhaps motivation isn’t the thing we should be relying on. This is why I didn’t go into ‘how to build discipline’ during the episode, as I feel that I would be cheapening the virtue of building discipline by trying to condense it. So I’ve put in some links here for people to find out for themselves.

It’s a bit like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. In this situation, motivation is the Hare, and discipline is the Tortoise.

As with many things in life, the less time you spend looking at this topic, the less likely you are to adopt its principles. If you really want to build discipline, a 5 minute video just isn’t going to cut it. And if you end up watching 10 videos in a row, you’ll probably just end up putting off taking the small, consistent steps needed to grow your discipline muscle.

That being said, here are some videos to get you started. Including the Russell Brand video where I  got the quote from

With things like this, it’ll probably take a whole book for you to really absorb the information…

I don’t have any personal recommendations, as I’ve read quite a few books that have touched on discipline, but not focused on it. E.G

Tim Ferris – The 4-Hour Body

Jordan Peterson – 12 Rules for Life

I’ve heard that one of the best books for this is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, and I’m planning to read that soon. One of my many new years resolutions this year is to adopt an ‘extreme ownership’ mentatility – so I should probably hurry up and get reading now that I think about it… 

Even some of the poems in the Tao Te Ching talk about discipline.

A mate of mine shared this post with me after listening to the episode. I really like how clearly it visualises the point I was trying to make in this podcast.

Transcript

“I hardly ever feel motivated to do the things that will make my life better.”

I heard Russel Brand say this in one of his vlogs and I just thought. Wow, that really gets to my core. For me, it is one of those quotes that you can almost physically feel resonating with you. It so perfectly sums up how I feel, articulated in a way that is both new, and yet overwhelmingly familiar.

“I hardly ever feel motivated to do the things that will make my life better.”

Me too Russel, Me too.

A lack of motivation can make us feel a sense of inadequacy, perhaps shame, as we are not as excited and energised about doing things as we feel we should be.

Compounding this feeling is the rapidly growing industry that has monetised motivation. Turned it into bitesized, easy to click, easy to consume snippets: The Motivation Megacomplex. A billion dollar industry that spews out an endless tirade of books, seminars, podcasts, motivational videos, adverts and Instagram accounts that promise to provide the one thing that you lack that could transform your life forever.

Motivation.                                                                                                                                                    

Like any good industry, the Motivation Megacomplex thrives on our feelings of inadequacy, and positions its products at the centre of the solution. You are only ever one monetised YouTube video or advert-ridden blog post away from finally tasting the sweet nectar of motivation.

Instead, what you will most likely receive is but a drip, a momentary hit that makes your heart pump and your pupils dilate. Like a drug coursing through your veins, it transports you out of your doubt-ridden, malaise-infested body, up onto the wings of enthusiasm, from where everything seems possible and achievable.

And then, just as quickly as you came up, you come crashing back down to earth. Just as it’s time for real action, the high wears off, and you are dumped back into your unmotivated shell. The next video on YouTube automatically queues, it’s time for you to go and do something productive, you know that if you don’t do it now, you’ll miss your window for the evening, but the high has already worn off, and the next video, promising another hit of the drug, is about to start, and like an addict, you click play, lean back, and put off real world action in favour of a manufactured motivation microdose.

The Motivation Megacomplex initiates a vicious cycle. We feel our self-worth decline as we become less motivated, so we consume more of the industry’s material, but that usually makes us achieve less in our actual lives, which in turn makes us feel less motivated and more inadequate, so we crave the motivational content all the more.

It’s a vicious cycle, but there is a solution. There is a key to unshackle the chains the industry has on us, there is a way to stop the cycle. And it’s not more motivation.

It’s discipline. And in this episode, I’ll show you why.

This is Season 2 – Episode 7 – of Tim Quit His Job, the show that follows me on my adventures into the unknown, as I quit my  job, start a business, and try to figure out life along the way. It’s a show for people who are finding their place in the world, but looking to do things a little differently along the way. I’m not a guru, not a preacher, not an expert. Just a normal guy in his mid-20s, trying to be honest about my thoughts and experiences. If you enjoy the podcast, then come and find out more about it at timquithisjob.com. I’m improving the website as we go, which is slow progress as it’s my first time doing it, but I’ve now got all the episodes and my notes up there. So for additional content, background info, and relevant articles, head over to the shownotes section. As always, the show is produced and instrumentalised by the disruptive, daring and dynamic Henri Victorious – you’ll find links to his music on the website. In the meantime, enjoy the show.

I’ve been thinking about the relative merits of motivation and discipline for a while now. As a former motivational video addict, I’ve sunk countless hours into watching motivational content that didn’t really get me anywhere. But it was actually my girlfriend who got me thinking about it this week.

I thought that we were doing pretty well at the whole lockdown thing up until a week or two ago. Sure, we nearly kill each other about once or twice a week. But overall, we’ve both stayed in pretty good shape, done well professionally, caught up with friends in whatever ways we could, and found ways to enjoy the great outdoors when possible.

But over the last couple of weeks, perhaps as we felt like the situation was a lot further away from its conclusion than people are making it out to be, whatever motivation we have clung to during this time has worn off. We now find ourselves with absolutely no enthusiasm to do things. No warm feelings of positivity that inspire us to action. Instead, just a cold void lacking any real drive to do the things that we know will benefit us in the long term.

Okay, perhaps I’m putting words into her mouth here, let’s face it, she’s not quite as dramatic and theatrical as me. But on some level, we’ve both been feeling this, and she finally said:

 “enough is enough, I’m no longer waiting ‘til I actually want to do something, I’m just going to do it anyway.”

What she is expressing here, is a transition away from a reliance on motivation, and a shift towards discipline.

Summed up in her own words, motivation is ‘waiting until you feel like doing something’ and discipline is ‘doing it anyway’. I think this encapsulates it pretty well. I’ve heard people describe motivation as like an emotion – it is temporary, fleeting and unreliable. Yet undeniably powerful. Receiving a dose of motivation, from wherever it comes from, is amazing – a gift And we all know that feeling when you just wake up on the right side of the bed and feel like taking the day by the horns; when your favourite song randomly comes on and you feel a burst of energy; or when the weather is perfect and you actually want to go for a run. I could go on, but the thing is, motivation is a short term fix, and it is incredibly fickle. It is unreliable, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. Whilst I believe that the more open and optimistic you are, the more you will tend to find it; overall – it is something that we receive, not something we manifest.

Discipline is not an emotion; it is a muscle. A muscle you can exercise when your brain tells you it can’t be bothered to do something, but you know you need to do it anyway. It’s a learned and practiced response to the overwhelming desire we get to seek pleasure in the short term, rather than fulfilment in the long term. It’s what moves you towards bigger, more abstract goals. Discipline is what keeps you on the path when the motivation has burnt out. It’s fundamentally reliable and can be manifested when needed.

I’m not going to lie, I feel pretty unmotivated right now. In general, the lockdown has got me losing steam. But today?! Man, I’m at a low. Unfortunately, I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed with life, business and responsibilities. I’ve had a bunch of new business projects springing up – all over the world – I’m now working on projects in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Sheffield and Bradford – simultaneously! And although this is what I’ve been working for, I’m finding it impossible to keep track of it all, focus on one thing at a time, be productive enough to get it all done. And then on top of it all, I’ve got to write this podcast. I tried to find a shortcut today. I was like, I’m just going to write some pointers down, a few notes, then stand in front of the mic and say interesting things for ten minutes. I tried it, and it sucked – hard. Charisma black hole. In real life, I just don’t have the same pazazz, and you guys deserve better than that!

To make matters worse, some dickhead just stole my ASOS delivery from the downstairs lobby of my building. And ASOS are being really tight about the whole thing, and refusing to give me a refund. So unfortunately, at the minute, all of my energy and writing prowess is being turned towards sending persuasive emails to Deborah on their customer service team, leaving me with very little juice left to write an informative and engaging podcast.

So I had to try and summon the willpower to sit down and work out the nuts and bolts of this episode. But there was no willpower to draw, no magical energy that came to me, no fresh new pair of jeans to make me feel good about myself (thanks a lot ASOS) – just the knowledge that I’m writing this podcast for a long term goal that is more important than my short term desire to crawl up into a ball and forget about my responsibilities.

I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly disciplined person. But this right here is discipline, plain and simple. The only thing getting me through today. And I know that when Henri sends me back the finished episode, with all the added production value, I’ll put my headphones on, hit play, and end up dancing round the kitchen with happiness. It’s my weekly reward for exercising some discipline when all motivation has failed me.

Unless this episode sucks of course, then it will all have been a waste of time anyway. If that’s the case, I blame ASOS, so feel free to email their customer service team and direct your complaint to them. Tell them Tim sent you, and he wants his goddam money back. And Deborah, from  Customer Services, if you’re listeninig to this, let me clarify again that no, the shelf next to the front door of my busy apartment building is Not a safe space, and if you think so,  then come over here, leave your ASOS staff discount card in that same spot, and then see what happens five minutes later!

‘But Tiiiiim’ I hear you say ‘look at The Rock, Kevin Hart, Serena Williams, Mark Wahlberg, they are sooooo motivated. If I was that motivated, I’d be rich, famous and ripped too.’

Yeah sure, in your dreams Deborah!

This brings me on to another thing I’ve been thinking about motivation and discipline, something that muddies the water a bit. I think that what is actually discipline, often looks like motivation from the outside. The main reason for this is that we have overblown the importance of motivation in our own struggle, because it helps us avoid taking the blame for inaction. As a result, we convince ourselves that motivation is just something that others have and we don’t, so we link the success of others to an inbuilt difference in motivation, not discipline.

Again, this a bit of a cycle. We then look to these idols as our sources of motivation. That’s why The Rock has so many followers on Instagram, we want some of his juice, want some of what he’s having. I’m not talking about anabolic steroids, I’m talking about some of that sweet, sweet motivation, and we get a little hit of it every time he shares a post-workout pic; although seldom is that little hit enough to spur us into any real action. I’m not accusing him of ‘selling’ motivation, if you look at his posts and writing, he talks about discipline and sustained effort quite a lot, but what most of us erroneously take from his social media, is that he just has more motivation than us, and all we need to break our own cycles of inactivity, is more of it. So we binge watch motivational videos and scroll through social media looking for it, sliding into a dependency trap where we wait for outside stimulus to spur us into action, without learning to be the drivers of our own activity. We descend down a bottomless spiral. A spiral that almost inevitably ends in depression if it is not interrupted.

From my own experiences, I’ve noticed an interesting and undeniable link between motivation, discipline, and depression. I found that when depressed, it becomes harder and harder to persuade yourself to do the things that have a long term benefit, things that deliver delayed gratification but might be difficult or perhaps unpleasant to do in the here and now. Things like going to bed on time, getting out of bed early, cooking yourself a meal, or going to the gym. The more depressed you get, the more your discipline muscle atrophies.

To make matters worse, it seems that those sparks of motivation that once came like precious gifts have all but disappeared. You really are unmotivated. But it feels like that is the reason you are slowing down, not a lack of discipline.

When I went through a spell of depression in my late teens, I attributed too much of it to a lack of motivation, rather than a lack of discipline. I convinced myself that all I was missing was motivation, and that as a result, I didn’t need to do the work needed to pull myself out of the rut I was in. I was used to youthful motivation being something that naturally came to me, so I was essentially just sat there waiting, waiting for a spark that never came. The longer I sat there, the further away from any genuine shred of motivation I became – and all the whilst, unbeknownst to me, my discipline muscle atrophied further, and I fell deeper and deeper into a rut.

After a while, even things that I used to enjoy doing felt difficult. Like going out with friends, having dinner with my family, or playing sport. As a result of these activities no longer feeling fun or exciting in the short term, I needed discipline to convince myself to actually do them, but as you know, that discipline wasn’t there! So, I slowly distanced myself from enjoyment even more – applying the tourniquet that would cut off the last vestiges of motivation and discipline for good!

Depression is a dangerous spiral. But misidentifying the problem as a lack of motivation, rather than a lack of discipline, allows us to forget that we have the ability do the work that is necessary to get us out of that spiral.

There are now many books, articles and videos on how to build discipline, and I’m not going to attempt to distil all of them in this episode. If you are interested in better understanding discipline and how to build it, then head over to the shownotes section of my website, timquithisjob.com, where I’ve posted some useful resources in the blog post for this episode. But if you can’t be bothered to check that out, I’d recommend looking up a guy called Jocko Willink, who’s mantra – Discipline = Freedom – gets to the core of what I’ve been trying to say here.

“I hardly ever feel motivated to do the things that will make my life better.”

This sounds like a fairly depressing statement. But it’s actually a fair admission, and a great starting point. Because the things that are going to make your life better are hard. Annoyingly, frustratingly hard. But if they were easy, they wouldn’t make your life better! Life improves as you embrace difficulty and overcome challenge.

But we can’t rely on motivation to help us on this journey, it’s just not reliable in the long run, and it gets us into a state of mind where we don’t seek to be the drivers of our own determination.

“I hardly ever feel motivated to do the things that will make my life better”

Well, thank god for discipline then.

 

 

 

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