Get Disciplined, Not Motivated

The Challenge

It’s hard to stay motivated day in and day out. There are days when I feel pulled in 42 different directions, I’m lethargic, my neck hurts, and I start to think “Is this worth it?” My subconscious starts building this defense that maybe I should remain working for someone else and staying the course. It’s not so bad. It’s certainly less stressful.

There are other days when I see others so much farther along. I observe my boss pitching a new client with ease and finesse, knowing nothing but the name of the guy he’s speaking to. I see a guy I went to college with on CNBC selling a drone that recites your day’s to do list to you while trimming your hair. My younger brother calls to tell me he’s just been promoted and is making more money than me. My subconscious re-emerges to tell me, “You can’t get to where they are. You’re too far behind. It’s not ever going to be enough.”

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Motivation works against you. You wake up feeling energized and determined to control the day, and, almost in an instant, you realize you’ve let the day control you. In order to make motivation an ally, to keep your motivation always on your side, you have to achieve discipline. Without discipline, there’s no drive, there’s no ambition, and there’s certainly no motivation.

Depending on who you are, you can train yourself to be disciplined in a multitude of different ways. For me, my discipline is driven by my to-do lists. I’ll digress for a second with this quote by actor Ben Feldman.

“Goals aren’t enough. You need goals plus deadlines. Goals big enough to get excited about and deadlines to make you run. One isn’t much good without the other, but together they can be tremendous.”

This quote reminds me that your goals are nothing without a plan. That plan has become my discipline.

The Process

I begin each year, rather than with New Years Resolutions, with goals. I then break those goals up until quarters (deadlines). Each quarter, I have a manageable amount of goals I hope to accomplish. These are either baby steps towards a bigger goal, or the big kahuna staring me in the face telling me I must make it happen within the next 3 months. Then, at the beginning of each week, I write my personal goals for the week on a post-it note. This post-it note will be transferred onto each of my daily to-do lists for the week. My daily to-do list include tasks for, you know, my actual paying job. But that post-it note is always with me throughout my day, staring me in the face, challenging me to make things happen for myself as much as I make things happen for my company and clients. This week, that to-do list told me to write this blog. Mission accomplished.

There is nothing quite like crossing something off my to-do list. I think I might like the action of sliding a line through a bullet point more than actually accomplishing the goal.

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The Success

This quarter, I had to accomplish a goal I had been dreaming about for at least five years. I wanted to be published in the Huffington Post. I had researched the process last year (within one of my quarterly tasks) and this year I was determined to make it happen. And this quarter, I accomplished that goal.

When I received the email saying my article would be published, it was a Monday morning and I was sitting in my office ready to take on another workweek. Instead, I became a child. I silently fist pumped onto my legs, squealing inside. I couldn’t believe that I had accomplished my goal. I was smiling for myself and myself alone. I did it. Of course, the accomplishment took motivation. It took determination, considering I had emailed editors a few times with no response. It took a timely, interesting pitch, one that came to me out of nowhere when I saw what a recent editor had written. It took passion, passion for the piece and passion for the goal. But ultimately, all these things would be nothing without discipline. The discipline it took to follow editors I related to. The discipline to write on others’ articles on a consistent basis to understand the tone and structure of the writing. And, ultimately, the discipline to achieve this goal on deadline.

Now, while this process may seem trivial, time consuming or confusing to you, it works too well for me – so well that I was actually impressed with myself (which doesn’t happen often). I am disciplined to deadlines and to-do lists. Without them, I lose motivation.

The next step

Now, it’s time to ask yourself – What drives your motivation? What part of your process needs discipline? How are you most encouraged? How are you motivated to work? Some people need a drill sergeant, some need an accountability coach, some just need personal time. Start with figuring out what will make you more disciplined. Once you’ve determined that, you’re ready to go for the goal.

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

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My only focus since I was the (likely world’s first) five-year old making to do lists was to keep moving forward. I didn’t know if any of the extra curricular activities, AP classes, internships or networking events would get me where I needed to be but I knew it couldn’t possibly send me backwards. I’ve also always said (and believed) that it’s better to busy than bored and I continue to make sure that not a day goes by that doesn’t bring me even the tiniest step closer to being better than I was the day before. The issue was, and is still is, that I don’t necessarily know where I’m headed.

After side projects and extracurricular activities in high school that most likely did nothing but give me more anxiety than I gave myself, I chose to take my talents to the University of Florida (Go Gators!) to get a degree in Telecommunications Management. I had dreams of using my passion for reading and writing to work in television. Throughout college, I would write down quotes from my friends that I was certain would be plots in my future television pilots. After graduation, I moved to New York City to begin my dream job with MTV2. I worked on two shows, one being Wild N Out, which reached an audience of 1.1 million – making it the highest rated-show in MTV2 history at the time. I didn’t make it through the entire first season before deciding that show business, and NYC, just wasn’t for me. It was very discouraging that after just the second day at my “dream job” I was already thinking, ok, now what?

Although I never saw myself as a forever Floridian, I needed the Sunshine State. Being raised by two entrepreneur parents, I needed independence as well. I returned home to get my MBA in Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University while also working at a marketing firm, where I learned how to combine my favorite hobbies into a full-time career. I spent about a year and a half at the marketing firm, where we helped entrepreneurs and startups get off the ground with anything from naming the company to finding investors. It was empowering and exciting to be involved in so many different industries that I had never expected to learn anything about.

This would be the part of the story where I realized marketing was it and I had found my calling. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to write that plot twist into my own life.

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These days, I’m an Account Manager for an advertising agency, a Skimm’bassador for theSkimm a new member adviser for Emerge Broward, and I do freelance writing for New Times and ContentBacon.

Figuring out what you “want to be when you grow up” is a lot harder and more complicated than it was when I was five. For a lot of jobs (i.e. news anchor, doctor, baseball player) you have to know where you want to be at a young enough age where you can begin actively preparing. Sometimes, by the time you realize this, it’s too late. Most times, however, you never figure it out. I don’t think I’ll ever know what I want to do for the simple fact that I want to do everything. I’m interested in real estate, owning a sports bar, writing a novel, working for the Dallas Cowboys and definitely most interested in saying “to hell with it” and traveling the world and writing a travel blog. I’ve learned through several quarter-life crisis’ that sometimes that’s ok. Although many will tell you otherwise, you don’t need to pick one thing to do. Most people don’t. A study from Forbes says that people will have 15-20 jobs in their lives. Once you (or I) come to terms with the fact that there will never be just that one job, you (or I) can start enjoying the ride, trusting the process and believing that all the bumps and turns are part of the journey. I use to think that a career was the one thing in life you can control, that’s why I focused so hard on it. Unfortunately, you can’t even control that. So for now, and maybe forever, I’ll stick with continuing to be better than I was yesterday while enjoying the mystery of finding out where it will take me.