Succeed without motivation

I drove to Bristol on Saturday. There’s nothing like getting out on the open road and just… driving. Yep, that would have been great. Way better than sitting in queues for miles, as is what happens when you drive to Bristol. But, one day soon, I’ll be able to experience that feeling – the wind through my hair, the scenic country roads. Not too soon as they make you wait weeks for a driving theory test, but eventually. Today I’m writing about how to succeed without motivation.

Things are going pretty well at the moment. Yesterday marked one month since my gym induction and for that month I’ve been thoroughly aboard the gain train. What I like about the gain train is that there’s space for everyone. This distinguishes it from my local trains, which are the opposite. And it never stops. Not even when people get off. People just jump, because they can’t hack the journey. But the train travels on. Onwards always, powered by the flames of the passengers’ yearning for progress. The journey has the power to change your perspective and I’m starting to see myself in a new light.

When I’m crouched down low, grimacing in the mirror in a meditative fury, giving everything for one more squat, I don’t just see me. I see simplicity. Life is simple when it’s just me and the bar. Everything is clear. The gym takes on a spiritual nature. I’m a container of reps, and when I go to the gym, I give them all away. It’s all so simple. Eat food → collect reps; lift weights → give reps. And when you offer enough reps, the spirits of the gym give you health, strength and aesthetics. And if you stop, they take them away. I have a strong feeling that this is true. Which is to say I’m 99% sure.

The point is, I’m Michelangelo’s David trapped in stone, chip, chip, chipping away. Some exercises chip away quickly – these are called compounds. Others chip away slowly – these are called isolations. Compounds work a lot of muscle groups at once, so a little improvement in each of them translates into consistent gains in the weight you can lift. Squats, for example, I increase by 7.5kg per week. Isolations specifically target just one muscle group. Isolations are in gym programmes to teach us patience.

Your body is a temple

But where was I? Ah yes, spirituality. Everyone’s body is a temple. Temples are the gateway between the material and immaterial worlds. Some people fill their temple with salads and austerity; for others it’s more like a temple of the Buddha. But, just because a temple’s disrespected, that doesn’t stop it being a temple. Unhealthy people are mostly just people who aren’t very good at temple management. Maybe they try once in a while, but they give up. It’s quite a sad thing. Luckily Matt Bowen’s here to help.

Every time Bono clicks his fingers, not only does a child in Africa die, but someone gives up on their diet and exercise plan. That person had a long, slim future ahead of them. The African I mean. The dieter had no chance. And you know why? I’m about to share a pearl of wisdom. They fell foul of Matt Bowen’s Secret Imperatives for Prosperous Ascendency rule #1:

Don’t let your success rely on things that are unreliable.

You know what’s unreliable? You are. You want to cycle every day? Hey, I’m behind you. Want to eat more goji berries? I’d tell anyone who’d listen how vaguely commendable that was. But I bet you’re feeling really pumped when you decide these new goals. Then bam! There’s the mistake. Your success is predicated on you having the motivation and the willpower to commit. Your motivation is unreliable. If your success is reliant on your motivation, and your motivation is unreliable, then your success is unreliable too. That’s a straight-up hypothetical syllogism.

The people who succeed don’t have to stay pumped and motivated 24/7. That’s impossible without expensive drugs. That means these people are managing to succeed without motivation. So don’t rely on being pumped. Don’t let your success hinge on current-you. Current-you sits around in its underwear watching YouTube and eating Doritos. Or at least that’s what I do. If you want to succeed, you need to make it as hard as possible to fail. If failure is impossible, success becomes guaranteed. Engineer your life so that you can meet your goals and succeed without motivation and having to pump yourself up.

“Okay, okay, I get it, but how do I do that?” I hear you ask. That’s why I’m here to help. You want to find ways to make what you want to do hard to avoid. Want to cycle to work? Sell your car. Or, if you’re gonna wuss out on me, give your keys to your wife and tell her not to let you. That’s called a commitment device. Marriage, I mean.

To succeed without motivation, you gotta have some self-respect

Commitment devices can be pretty tricky to handle though and often require someone else to help out. That’s why I prefer self-respect. That’s why you really fail. That’s why Bono keeps clicking his fingers, killing the hopes and dreams of people everywhere: it’s a lack of self-respect. It’s like I said before: your body’s a temple. Temples require respect and maintenance. If you truly respect yourself, of course you’re going to look after yourself. Of course you’re not going to eat Doritos 24/7 and neglect your health and well-being.

People think it’s all an issue of motivation. It’s not. Throw it away. It’s irrelevant. What you need is self-respect, so treat yourself with a bit of damned reverence, you know? Build up some discipline. Have the self-esteem to value keeping the promises you make to yourself.

It’s not easy to just do that overnight, but it’s a journey. The higher your self-esteem and the more you love yourself, the more you’ll see the value in looking after yourself. If you start cultivating a love of yourself, looking after yourself becomes a matter of course. Not just in building healthy habits, but in everything. Only when you have self-respect can you find the courage to follow your dreams.

There you go. That’s bona fide wisdom. Now put down the Doritos and squat your temple-ass in a gym – that’s how you get health, strength and aesthetics.

Matt Bowen

Matt is a blogger, budoka and software developer. He sold his things, quit his job and moved to Japan to study Japanese and martial arts. Sometimes he writes about it.

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