All the Posts

Big Picture Discipline: Motivation Does Not Actually Matter

How do you stay motivated to keep your nutrition going well and to hit all your work outs?

If you are looking at your health, your fitness, your nutrition and triathlon as a long-term thing you do – not just something you will “start on Monday”–that makes a difference.

If you take care to try and make good choices every day, be consistent in workouts over the course of years and your life, that the motivation factor isn’t as strong as say, habit.  Not perfect… just a little better and focused goes a long way.


I have been sick physically and battling the winter, emotional darkness that tends to slap me around this time every year.

Through this, I am reminded that there is a vast difference between ‘motivation’ and discipline.

Pinning yourself down as “lacking motivation” is actually a form of an excuse.

What we should really be saying is:  I am lacking in discipline.

And ouch, that kind of hurts.

But how true is that?  It’s easy to say, “I am not motivated to do this workout.”  And then just blow it off, declaring ourselves in a funk and heading straight to Dunkin’ Donuts.

I came up with a pretty good little checklist for staying motivated–and what that really means, and what it really takes.

I came up with a name for it, because I have been told that I am an introvert who likes labels.


And I call it Big Picture Discipline.

Keeping in mind that the “Big Picture” is what matters is key.

The adage of “progress, not perfection.”  That you can go into each new year or season a little better than the last–physically or spiritually or emotionally–or all three. This doesn’t have to be radical transformation. It can be something as small as:  I don’t drink Diet Coke anymore.  (Which is actually huge for your health, BTW).

Some questions to ask when you are feeling “unmotivated” and to keep you on the Big Picture Discipline track:

– Will this workout and the consistency of training, keep me on track for “the best me possible” – not just now, but also for years to come?
– Does this particular workout matter for my races and my goals?
– Does this food or drink that I am putting in my face fuel my body… or stuff my emotions?
– Am I giving myself an “out” and an excuse to not show up and make this happen?
– Am I acting with discipline… or with excuses?


Just a few things to think about as we head into the Holiday Season.

Nope, it’s not easy to stay “motivated” all the time.  But when we switch our thoughts to discipline–that shifts the burden to action. What we can do to make dreams and health and progress happen. Motivation has a feeling of external stressors or causes–like something else is to be blamed for the lack of motivation.

But discipline? That’s all on us, baby.

And that’s a different discussion.

Let’s go forth and be disciplined.



  • Todd

    December 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I think of discipline as the thing that kicks in when motivation runs out.

    I said something accidentally-profound the other day. My wife said she wasn’t sure she wanted to go to the Y to do her trainer-assigned intervals. I said, “The great thing about having a coach who gives me a schedule is that I don’t have to WANT to do it…I just have to do it.”

  • cherie

    December 3, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Definitely long term- I have been DISCIPLINED for almost 45 years (running, working out)- this a.m. was feeling under the weather so my MOTIVATION to run was squelched for a short time. I will swim tomorrow! Two different “animals” for sure!

  • Karen

    December 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Thank you! I’ve been feeling unmotivated since my last race (a 10K on Halloween). I haven’t run in weeks, even though I signed up for the off season training. Undisciplined is more like it. I’ve been thinking that I need to get back to it, but keep making excuses not to. I even canceled my gym membership with the pool! I need to stop thinking about feeling motivated to work out and start doing it.


Leave a Reply