Motivation, Habits, and Discipline. Three very different takes on how to help get us to where we want to be.
I've implemented all three in some form or fashion over the years and all have merit... as well as pitfalls.
Let me explain:
Pro: Motivation is killer. When I feel motivated I feel like I can do anything! I can work 16 hour days for a whole week, I feel energized in the morning to go for runs, I can be that super hero family guy and get all my business stuff done in time to cook dinner for the wife.
I feel on top of the world.
Con: It doesn't last. It's something you can't control. It can be affected by any little thing like stubbing your toe, getting hungry, or because it's rainy outside.
If my business is relying on me being motivated to be successful... I've got serious problems. I can't just not write blog posts, not implement code, not talk to customers just because the damn sun didn't come out to play today and I don't feel motivated!
As energizing as motivation is, I can't fully rely on it.
Pro: The interesting thing about habit is that I don't have to control it. It just happens. I have a habit of having the same meal for breakfast every day ( if it's the weekday and I'm not on vacation ), I have one egg over medium, two strips of turkey bacon, and a cup of coffee ( keeping it low carb baby! ).
This low carb breakfast and eating it every single day is a trick I learned from Tim Ferriss. I don't actually eat that healthy the rest of the day, but this one meal, this same meal every single day for breakfast has actually kept me pretty trim. ( Patented Tim Ferriss "Minimum Effective Dose" for keeping weight off ).
It's good for me, it's healthy... but I don't care about any of that anymore. It's just a habit. I don't have to think about how or why this can help me... I just do it. And that's a big pro for habits... if the habit is actually a good thing for me.
Con: It takes 3 weeks or more to build a habit. That may not sound like much, but there are plenty of "habits" that I tried to form that I just couldn't get to that 3 week mark. Meditation and waking up at 5am to lift weights just to name a few.
Pro: Does not rely on any outside influence and it doesn't behave like a habit. I signed up for a 5K marathon training group a few years ago. So on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we would all run and train for about an hour. I hate running with a passion and I never got used to it. And since it wasn't an every day thing... every time a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday rolled around... It was a choice every time to go out there and run. No motivation, no habits. Even when I wasn't feeling well, even when the weather sucked, I chose and decided to go every single time.
Con: Where the hell does Discipline come from? And how can I form it? It baffles me that I was so disciplined to go run in that 5k training group, but I'm not disciplined to wake up early and lift weights. For a period of about 6 months I was disciplined in eating a low carb diet ( about 65 carbs only per day ). And every single meal, every time I ate out for dinner, I made the thoughtful choice... the decision to not get the pasta or to not eat the free bread or chips ( And everybody gives out free chips or bread!! )
And then one day... poof it was gone. I "chose" to eat the breadsticks one night...and as mysterious as the Discipline was formed it was gone... and the chips and the bread instantaneously were shoved in my mouth.
An Interesting Idea...
With all three having different pros and cons, I started to think that maybe the best strategy is a mix of all of them.
Using a different strategy based on which can be the most helpful at that specific time.
So let's say if I were starting from scratch, I would use motivation. Motivation, I think, is the best way to get started, you feel pumped, and energized to start that new diet or exercise plan. Basically the "New Year's Resolution" idea.
You can use that motivation long enough to eventually form a habit in where you don't have to think about it anymore.
And if you start to lose motivation before the habit formation, perhaps a week or a few days of discipline might be in order. I think a mixture of discipline and motivation can help lead to that habit.
And then I'm coasting...
Until of course I go on vacation and that habit is broken... and I need to deploy motivation or discipline again to get back into it.