Discipline, Motivation, and Spark

l was thinking about discipline, and how it pertains to my day to day decision making and why I succeed and fail. I decided to try to visualize it and think explore how I leverage discipline to stay on track.Goal: The goal sets the dotted line and dictates the target you are trying to hit. Good goal setting takes practice, as choosing too lofty a goal means even on your most motivated day, you’ll fall short of meeting the needs of your goal. This is failure before you begin.

Spark: The thing that gets you super excited about this goal. Maybe it’s watching an elite athlete perform an amazing feat. Maybe it’s seeing a photo of your fat ass. Maybe it’s seeing someone with something you wish you had. This spark is the impetus to get you started, but is extremely short lived. Usually lasting a few hours at most.

Motivation: Comes into play next. It ebbs and flows over time. Sometimes, the motivation is more than the minimum work required to achieve your goal, at which point the work is enjoyable and effortless. Other times, it dips below that minimum work line, and you fall off the wagon. Depending on how much time you spend below your ‘minimum work’ line, progress could completely stall, or you might even slide backwards. This might mean you have too aggressive a goal, or it might mean you need to lean on…

Discipline: Discipline is the safety net of wavering Motivation. Discipline is the ‘punching the card’ workout when you feel crummy, or the dedicated hour of study time when you’d rather be drinking. It’s the safety net that keeps you from riding the rollercoaster of motivation into the ground. But Discipline is a budget and depletes the more you use it. When you’re on a downswing, you’re burning up your reserves. Lean on Discipline too much and eventually you run out of it and failure results. Discipline replenishes during the upswings in motivation. Sometimes Discipline keeps you above the ‘minimum work’ line, and other times it falls below and only keeps you from derailing yourself. But it’s critical to use it. And just like gaining strength, it builds over time and you get more of it.

Area under the curve: The total work you perform towards your goal is the area under the line defined by the highest value of the three curves at any time (Spark/Motivation/Discipline).This is all purely hypothetical, but it was illustrative to me to visualize these components and will make me think about how I set goals, as well as giving me some feedback about why I seem to be failing or stalling.

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