Inevitably, your motivation to perform a task will dip at some point. What happens when motivation fades? I don't claim to have all the answers, but here’s what I try to remind myself of when I feel like giving up.
Your mind is a suggestion engine. Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, as I'm writing this, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.
If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like it.
Discomfort is temporary. Relative to the time in your normal day or week, nearly any habit you perform is over quickly. Your workout will be finished in an hour or two. Your report will be typed to completion by tomorrow morning.
Life is easier now than it has ever been. Three hundred years ago, if you didn’t kill your own food and build your own house, you would die. Today, we whine about forgetting our iPhone charger.
Maintain perspective. Your life is good, and your discomfort is temporary. Step into this moment of discomfort and let it strengthen you.
You will never regret good work once it is done. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” So often it seems that we want to work easily at work worth doing. We want our work to be helpful and respected, but we do not want to struggle through our work. We want our stomachs to be flat and our arms to be strong, but we do not want to grind through another workout. We want the final result, but not the failed attempts that precede it. We want the gold, but not the grind.
Anyone can want a gold medal. Few people want to train like an Olympian. And yet, despite our resistance to it, I have never found myself feeling worse after the hard work was done. There have been days when it was d--- hard to start, but it was always worth finishing. Sometimes, the simple act of showing up and having the courage to do the work, even in an average manner, is a victory worth celebrating.
This is life. Life is a constant balance between giving in to the ease of distraction or overcoming the pain of discipline. It is not an exaggeration to say that our lives and our identities are defined in this delicate balance. What is life, if not the sum of a hundred thousand daily battles and tiny decisions to either gut it out or give it up?
This moment when you don’t feel like doing the work? This is not a moment to be thrown away. This is not a dress rehearsal. This moment is your life as much as any other moment. Spend it in a way that will make you proud.