Ditch The Motivation & Find Success

Guest Blog from Paul Carter of

The two most common phases uttered by the average couch potato

in regards as to why they cannot get to the gym or follow a sound nutrition plan are usually the following – A) I just don’t have to the time or B) I wish I had the motivation to do so.

We all know the “time” excuse is nonsense.  The average 35-49 year old watches an astounding 33 hours of television per week.  If you want to understand the paradigm someone has built their life around then the principle of effort and priorities gives us constant feedback about this.  Which is the following –

  1. Priorities
  2. Level of effort
  3. Number 2 will tell you everything you need to know about number 1.

People make time for what they want to do; what’s important to them.  They spend money on it, invest time and energy into it, and sacrifice other things in their life for it.

The “I don’t have time” excuse is just that.  Understand there is a difference in excuses and reasons.  If you’re late for work because you hit snooze on the alarm 15 times, that’s an excuse.  It exhibits a clear lack of discipline to get out of make to make it to work on time.  If your car got a flat tire on the way to work and caused you to be late, that’s a reason.

If someone doesn’t have a desire to train or diet, that’s one thing.  But the excuse of “I don’t have the time” isn’t a valid one.

We’re left with what people call motivation, or a lack thereof.

Here’s a brutal truth that a lot of people don’t like to talk about when it comes to training or dieting.

Motivation is nonsense.

Despite all the motivational memes you read and pictures you see, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE battles their mind and has their willpower tested when it comes to putting in the work, and staying disciplined.


The two emotions that people make most of their choices based off, are pleasure and pain. And our natural inclination is to drive towards pleasure and avoid pain. Our mind and body nudges us towards pleasure and away from pain consistently, often trying to thwart us away from what it is we claim we really desire and claim we want most, if obtaining those things involve fear or suffering or the potential of loss.

I’ve always had a belief that there are a ton of lessons to be learned from the iron that can and will transcend into life. I don’t always enjoy training legs anymore, but I do so because I know that having strong legs and hips are going to benefit the quality of my life, especially as I grow older. That’s the greater good at play here. And often, doing something for the greater good doesn’t actually feel very good while we’re doing it.

What feels good most often, is making choices that allow us to avoid the pain zone, and slide right into the pleasure zone.

This is seen in just about every facet of our lives as well.

The short term reward gives us immediate relief. And that feels good; we like that. We consciously know that most of the time, making these choices are counterproductive to goal attainment, and possibly even stupid when it comes to what we need most. The problem is, the difficult road we know we should be traveling down just looks and feels awful.

This is where rationalization begins to speak very loudly in our mind. Drowning out all the other voices that become a faint hush in contrast to it.

  • We rationalize our weakness.
  • We rationalize our poor decisions.
  • We rationalize procrastination.
  • We rationalize a lack of effort.

The difficult path looks to be filled with adversity, struggle, and disbelief. It’s very unsure. While this pizza and Netflix over here, well, that’s a very sure thing. And the pizza feels good going down. And grinding our ass groove into the couch feels good, too. Now we’ve got good on top of good. Surely, this is winning at life.

But here’s the rub – the short path to pleasure and the avoidance of pain often brings us the greater amount of pain in the long run. And the path riddled with discomfort often brings us the greatest amount of pleasure and reward in the long run.  Eventually our trips down pleasure lane are going to cause us to suffer more, than if we had just buckled down and made the right choices in the first place.

Want a better life? An honest evaluation with genuine introspection often reveals to us that the hardest choices, tend to be the right ones.

Want a better body? Same principle applies.

But the avoidance of pain and the gravitation towards short term pleasure is in fact the very thing that makes us give up what we claim we want the most, for what we want now. And this applies to virtually every facet of our life.  And motivation is not going to be the thing we can tap into on a consistent basis, because as noted, we tend to drive towards pleasure and avoid pain which makes motivation very fleeting.  No one ever saw a motivation meme on the internet and changed their life.

When motivation wanes, discipline creates habits

Almost everything great worth achieving will come with a tremendous amount of work and personal sacrifice.  The longer the process involved in attaining it, the more likely it is that motivation will wane.  Motivation isn’t always going to show up.   Working for the physique, life, bank account, or relationships you want aren’t always going to be enjoyable.  It’s not always going to be fun.  Sometimes what is required to see these things come to fruition, isn’t to be what you feel like doing.  And plenty of times, it’s going to require a lot more work than you initially imagined.

Here is what you need to understand when that happens.

Motivation will only persist for as long as the desire to obtain something remains greater than difficulty in achieving it.

During the times that motivation wanes, the ability to see beyond the work, the frustration, the stress, and the stagnation must be what carries you.  And the wellspring from which all that flows starts with discipline.  And discipline creates habits.  Habits, and not motivation, will be the thing that helps you arrive at goal attainment.

Ditch the need to be motivated.  Motivation will come easy.  You won’t have to go searching for it when you have a strong desire for something.  The important thing to do is have habits that keep carrying you when motivation is absent.

Replace your wants with needs 

Ever notice the language used by children when they desire something?

“I want a cookie.”

“I want this toy.”

“I want…I want…I want.”

It is a child’s mindset that reaches for wants, and doesn’t evaluate needs.

Mentally, we must have a paradigm shift that causes us to reevaluate our life so that we understand the difference in what we want, and what we really need.  This starts with two simple questions.

  1. What do I need the most?
  2. What am I willing to give up attaining it?

Defining needs is quite different than defining wants.  I may want a super model girlfriend and a lambo, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need either, and I’m not willing to give up my sanity and retirement in the process of this “want”.

Defining your real needs is far more important than focusing on your wants.  Doing so will be another factor in helping you to outline the habits you need to see the manifestation of goals come to fruition in your training and life.

The 80-10-10 rule 

In training, the 80-10-10 rule dictates that 80% of the training sessions you engage in, will simply be putting in the work.  10% will be awesome, and 10% will suck.  The problem is, people put a spotlight on the two 10% sessions far too often, and let them dictate their moods and decisions.  Athletes will often change their entire training routine based on a couple of lousy workouts, even though up until that point, progress had been steady.  Possibly slow, but steady.

No bodybuilder expects to stay in competition shape year around.  That would be counterproductive to building a better body.  No strength athlete expects to be at true maximal strength year around, either.  It’s simply not possible.  But both need to find ways to push past the periods of self-doubt and suffering when things aren’t going as planned leading into a competition.

I’ve never climbed Everest; however, I can imagine the same theory applies.  There may be times when the conditions allow for a fast climb with little in the way of interruptions or adversity.  I’m sure there would be times when the opposite happens, and no progress upwards could not be made, and simply surviving was the goal.  The most important factor, if I were to postulate about it, my guess is the most important factor was the one step in front of the other for most of the trek.  It may not have been fun during the monotony, but that’s what was required to get to the top of the mountain.

The mundane work is most often the most important when it comes to arriving at completeness or success, rather than the minor ups and downs.

Don’t over-extend all the time

Muscle is not built in the gym.  It’s torn down there, then rebuilt through the recovery process.  If someone is in a perpetual state of over-extending by training too much, then the recovery process cannot take place.  Charles loves the phrase, “fatigue masks fitness.”  When a stimulus is tapped into far too often, it will become counterproductive.  This applies to every facet of your life.  If you are consistently depleting your body, mind, and emotional energy of its reserves then you cannot be at your best.  If you do not know when to take your foot off the accelerator then expect to redline the metaphorical car you are driving in your life, and blow the engine.

Sometimes the process must come to us by means of taking one step back, to take two steps forwards.

But are you willing to do this?  Most often we become entrapped in the mindset that to achieve or attain more, that more work must be done.  We often convince ourselves the reason things are not happening fast enough is because we’re not doing enough.  Even when we’re tapped out regarding mental, physical, and emotional energy.

Motivation Depletion

Eventually this will catch up to you, and as noted, motivation will become depleted.  If we don’t account for periods where we “unloading”, then expect to hit a wall like you were shot out of a cannon and directly into a brick wall.  Then we often find ourselves in a position where we must take five steps forwards just to get back to where we were before.

The intelligent bodybuilder, powerlifter, or athlete knows peaking is not something sustainable, and that the body will do what it takes to find homeostasis again.

If you are not self-aware enough to know when you’re tapped out, and need to decompress, then expect setbacks and regression.

As good as it gets

I had a friend who was making good progress in his training call me up one day and tell me he was going to change a few things around.  I asked him why.  He said because he felt that progress could be even better if he did.  My retort back to him was that I didn’t think it was a good idea.  He was feeling the best he had felt in years from an injury prevention standpoint, and I wouldn’t deviate from what was working.

Of course, he knew better, and changed things.  And got injured, and I gave him an “I told you so”.

When good things are manifesting in our training or life, even if it’s just a modicum of progress, it’s usually not a good idea to make wholesale changes.  Sometimes, whether we like it or not, that’s as good as it’s going to get right now.  One brick laid on the wall is better than no bricks at all.  One rep added is still progress.  Five pounds more on the bar means we’re still adapting and improving.

Being overzealous about results is another form of over extending, and getting greedy often costs us more than it gives back.

Certainly, there’s a time in training when you’re feeling that awesome 10% day, and want to go after it.  And what is the reaction to that action?  Usually there’s a dip in training productivity the next few days, or even possibly weeks from systemic recovery debt.  Deviating from the plan that caused that awesome 10% sessions to happen often has a chain reaction because recovery is now impaired relative to what it was.

Paul Carter, Deadlift

Progress isn’t always as fast as we’d like

And it’s possible that it’s not from a lack of effort, planning, or execution.  Sometimes all those things are perfectly in place, and we’re getting all we’re going to get from it right now.

Sometimes we’re going to work hard for very little, and finding appreciation for that can be difficult.  Appreciate it anyway, and milk that for all its worth until stagnation or regression becomes apparent.  When it does, make small changes that allow for a proper evaluation of what the outcome was.  This will leave you clues as to where to go from there.

Important Take Home Points

  1. Stop seeking the short-term reward, and look down the difficult path that leads to potential greatness.
  2. Don’t rely on motivation for success. Create a life instilled with discipline that creates habits.
  3. Stop focusing on the setbacks or the highpoints as the landmark for your work. Focus on what’s consistent and use that as the baseline for your progress.
  4. Create a mental shift that defines needs and removes wants.
  5. Don’t make wholesale changes from a plan even when the returns on your investment are not exceptional. Small adjustments will give you the greatest degree of feedback on where more success is hiding.

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