Motivation, Discipline, & Consistency

I’m part of an online mentor group, and there was a string of comments on the forum asking about motivation.  The person in question was asking for tips to help them find their motivation, and a lot of members of the group chimed in with comments about needing to harden up mentally.  People in sport often seem to comment about lacking motivation, and while that may be true, this particular series of comments made me think a lot about my past issues with motivation, and how motivation isn’t the same as discipline and consistency.

In the past, I struggled with all three: motivation, discipline, and consistency.  In simple terms, I consider motivation to be the “why” I do triathlon, discipline is the rules I set for myself in how I approach my hobby, and consistency is how well I follow those rules.  When I first got into triathlon, I didn’t really have a good reason for doing it, beyond the fact that I thought it would be cool.  While that is good motivation for getting to the first starting line, it isn’t enough to keep triathlon as a lifestyle.  My discipline was quite loose, as I didn’t give myself any concrete goals, and didn’t have any rules for how I would train.  This left consistency languishing, because when there are no rules, then there are no consequences for breaking them.  Needless to say, when looked at from that lens, it's totally understandable why my past forays into triathlon ended with me phoning it in for weeks before the race, and giving up entirely after the face.

When compared to this time around, it's a complete 180.  My motivation now is based in a big BIG dream that I’m not quite ready to share.  With such big dreams, and such a very long way to go, I have to have a plan and pack my patience.  I will do the work, and keep working until I get there.

Which leads to discipline.  I have to set up some rules for myself so I know when I’m on track to meet my goals.  For the 2016 season, that means following the BT 16 Week Sprint 3x Plan, followed by the BT 16 Week Olympic 3x Plan to gently build my volume up.  In addition to the 9 planned triathlon workouts a week, I have two strength training sessions, along with stretching and foam rolling.  The rules are simple: follow the plan!  In the event of weather, workouts can be moved indoors or shuffled around.  In the event of illness, workouts can be missed if I’m too sick to go to work or otherwise sick in bed.  If I’m contagious, I won’t do workouts at the REC.  Other than that, find a way to get the workouts done.

Consistency for me is adherence to the rules.  I think that this is the one that people really mean when they say they’re lacking discipline.  Sleeping in, shortening workouts due to bad weather, or skipping workouts due to not “feeling it” are all things I’ve used as excuses.  I’ve wondered why I lack motivation, but with my definitions in place, it’s easy to see that what I really was missing was consistency.  Like brushing my teeth and eating my vegetables, sometimes the right path isn’t always the one that sounds most immediately appealing.  But with time, these right decisions pay off.

Here’s the end of the analysis, and the interesting part: now that my motivation and discipline are taken care of and humming along, the only thing I really have to worry about is consistency.  And because letting go of consistency means possibly missing out on reaching my BIG DREAM, it is an easier decision each day to get the workout it.

I started out talking about my mentor group, so it seems a good thing to come back around to my favorite quote from the thread to round out this ramble.  A wise person said, “I have never regretted doing a workout, but I always regret missing one.”