Discipline Rather Than Motivation: Listening to the Right Voice in your Head!

There are two prominent, and distinct voices inside my head. No, I am not suggesting that I suffer from dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder). Rather when it comes to motivation, it seems that we are all in a tug-of-war between opposing objectives. We want to lose weight, but there is a voice that says, “Just eat that one slice of chocolate cake.” We may feel guilty for a short time afterwards, but in the end, we will eat that cake again if given a chance.

There seems to be a constant struggle between these two voices, the one that knows what is good for us, and the other that tempts us to sabotage our success. I have tried ignoring it, even reasoning with this other voice at times, but to no avail. The only thing I did try, and that worked, was making up my mind about which of the two voices was in charge, and listening to only that one.

Who’s Really The Boss Here?

I decided that the Voice of Good should be in the control seat. This doesn’t mean of course that the Voice of Temptation is going to go silently into the night. Mine put up a fierce fight (and still does). In fact, it seems to never stop fighting back. But, because I have made the decision, I use the Voice of Good to tell that Voice of Temptation where to get off.

As ridiculous, and as slightly mad as it sounds, I now catch myself at the times when the Voice of Temptation goes into another ramble about excuses to not go to the gym and workout — and then tell it where it get off. This seems to work. “Listen here Voice of Temptation, I get what you are trying to do, but you are not in charge here, I, the Voice of Good say we are going to go to the gym whether you like it or not!”

The Two Voices, As Old As Time

Telling that Voice of Temptation where to get off, and putting it in its place, has nothing to do with motivation, but everything to do with discipline. The truth is, you cannot practice motivation, but what you can practice is discipline. It takes discipline, to allow that Voice of Good to stand up and proclaim who is running the show.

Like Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome and Stoic philosopher, points out in his influential book, Meditations,

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, If I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

– But it’s nicer here…

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

– But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that – as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

Aurelius points to the discipline required to get things done. He also seems to be having that damned conversation between the Voice of Good and the Voice of Temptation that we all do. Clearly, those two voices have been around for eternity. The bottom line is, if you rely solely on the ‘desire’ to do something, then most of us would rather remain “huddled under the blankets and stay warm.” You have to put up the good fight, allow the Voice of Good to take charge, and don’t be afraid to tell the Voice of Temptation where to get off. And often, you need to tell it repeatedly!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.