Motivation is crap and everyone knows it.
We don't always feel like chasing our dreams. Sometimes it's too hard and they are too far away, like they are whispering to us from across a deep abyss. Sometimes we're tired and just want to sit down to rest our feet and shake off what somehow became an awful day. Sometimes the TV is calling us, or the kids are screaming, or we're more worried about that noise that our car has just started to make on the way home from work.
It's hard to stay focused, to "Stay on target" as they say during the finale of Star Wars. Life has a million distractions, obstacles, and hoops to jump through even on the way to getting simple mundane things done. Have you ever tried to tie your shoelaces while a toddler was around? Or really tried to accomplish anything with a toddler around, for that matter?
So larger, more complicated, almost imperceptible life goals? Forget it. There's no way you'll keep up morale and bring it home, smiling the whole way. You'll get worn down and tired, you'll forget why you started at all, why you even care. You'll decide that it doesn't matter in the end, so you may as well quit. You might actually quit, telling yourself that you're just taking a break and that you'll come back to it later. And then, you might quit again.
Anything big and scary worth doing will make you feel all of this and more on the path to completion. And that's pretty much the reason that these things are worth doing.
So how then? How do people get the bigger things done? How do they change their life and escape their habits and distractions? How do they succeed when their motivation fails?
Persistence. Determination. Drive.
Pick one. It doesn't matter which, because they all describe pretty much the same things. Not that people don't get worn down and lose hope from time to time. But they fight the good fight and slog it out through the mud. They bury their head and push through the pain. They pick up their tired feet and keep going. Not because they're motivated to. Not because they want do. But because they will.
I often talk about the importance of willpower in martial arts, but really it applies anywhere in life to any given problem. Anything that you want to do, see, or become is possible. Not because you want it, but because you will it. That is why we exist in this universe. To use our will to make things happen.
Because willpower is not concerned about comfort. Willpower doesn't care how you feel or what you think you've got left in the gas tank. It keeps pushing and driving and making gains toward the objective, no matter the cost. No matter the pain. No matter how many times it has to stop and start along the way to get there.
Remember, Confucius said, "It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop."
That's how the tortoise beat the hare. It's how you roll a boulder up a mountain and come down the other side transformed. It's how you push your life from where you are to where you want to be.
One step at a time. Over and over and over again.
If we only exercised when we felt like working out, for most of us it would never make any difference. To see gains and really change your life, you have to adopt a regimen of routine. You have to build a set of exercises spread out through the week, and then you have to stick to it. Abandoning your routine because it's inconvenient, or you're tired, or your friends call you to go out drinking will not only derail your routine. It will also keep that elusive achievement you're looking for forever out of reach.
Look at the Olympic athletes. How did they get there? Years and years of dedicated practice. Getting up early, working hard every day, sacrificing a social life. Getting there first, before anybody. Leaving last, after everyone else has gone home. Blood, sweat, and tears are what gets them there. Not feeling like it. Not wanting to be an Olympian. But willing themselves into position.
Persistence to me is the ability to keep going when others would quit. To dig down deep inside yourself to find the strength. Did you hit an obstacle? Oh well, got to push a little harder to get around it. Did you fail at something important? Too bad, pick yourself up and try again. Did you get injured? Kick ass at your recovery and come back at full strength. Did you get lost somewhere along the way? The wonderful thing is, you can always find your way again, it is never too late.
Persistence is kicking and dragging something into existence, no matter how much it screams or how long it takes.
Determination to me is the mindset to not let anything stop you. Slow you down, maybe. If you're a runner, determination is what takes you to the end of the marathon. If you're a fighter, it's what keeps you on your feet and not flat on your back counting the stars. If you're a writer, it's what makes you finish that book even though it's been a tough year for your family and the idea of doing more research makes your head spin.
Determination is a running back on its feet and a freight train when it hits. Nothing in the world can stand intact in front of someone who is determined.
Drive is what opens your eyes in the morning. What gets you out of bed. Why you put food in your face. Drive is your why. It's the reason you were put on this earth. It's your purpose in life. Honestly, it's the only reason to do anything.
No matter what you are working toward, drive is the most important part. Why are you doing it? Why do you care? Why not do something else? Why you and no one else?
These are the questions you need to answer in order to get anything seriously important done. The method is simple, and it's the same no matter what your goal is: We put one foot in front of the other and we keep walking. If we stumble, we push on. If we fall, we get back up. If we get knocked back, we recover and keep on walking.
We persist, we are determined, and we drive that goal home.
The true question of any goal is this: Not can you. But will you?
Sifu Michael Sandham is the owner and head instructor at Shaolin Martial Arts, LLC in Lakeway, TX. He believes Kung Fu is the secret to life. Come learn to fly at:
2009 RR 620 North Ste 740
Austin, TX 78734