As we head into week 2 of this fresh new year, there’s a common conversation I’ve been a part of. The thread weaves from mastermind groups to friends with one familiar denominator –

“How do you stay motivated?”

Well, as soon as I wrote the title of this blog, I decided to go for a walk. Clearly, I didn’t have the motivation to write it just yet. But I did have the discipline to pick it up when I got back.

You see – motivation is fleeting. I could name one famous entrepreneur who said it, but the truth is I’ve heard it from many. Motivation is an emotion – it’s only temporary. If you only do things when you’re feeling motivated, you’ll have plenty of unfinished projects on the go.

However, when you begin to practice discipline and pair it with sprints of motivation – look out, world. You’re a showstopper.

The question you need to be asking instead is –

“How do you discipline your motivation?”

Easier said than done. You could read ‘Atomic Habits’, listen to motivational podcasts, and scour the web for endless ideas about staying motivated. I’ve certainly done that – but not everything worked for me. What did work was being ridiculously disciplined with a hint of motivation. Sometimes it sucks – but damn, does it work.

Have big goals this year? You should probably read on.

Tips for Staying Disciplined when Motivation Fails

At the beginning of 2022, I said I wanted to write a book. For the first few weeks of January, I would have a dedicated routine where I sat in front of my computer and would write.

Sometimes I’d get a page. Sometimes I’d get a sentence. Then I’d get blocked and frustrated. When I don’t see results, my focus shifts and I begin to avoid the task at hand.

Big mistake. James Clear reminded me of that when he wrote, “You have to show up before inspiration will.” I stopped showing up, and that book isn’t coming out anytime soon.

I don’t have that same goal this year, but I do have a few that I would like to give an honest go. Here’s what I’m doing to stay disciplined.

Make it impossible to ignore.

I’m not a vision board girl. I prefer to write things down with lists, charts, and to-dos. Now, that’s fine and dandy, but my goals sitting in my journal on the shelf aren’t doing me any good. If you’re like me, it’s not doing you any good either.

You need to put your goals where you see them every day. Places like…

  • Beside the bathroom mirror
  • On your fridge
  • At your desk

You want your vision to be loud. You want it as your phone background, your desktop wallpaper, and you want to see it as often as possible. Step 1 to staying disciplined is understanding the impact of the goal.

Right now, my goals are plastered across the wall of my office. I’ve developed a habit of reading them every morning before opening my laptop. They aren’t as simple as “be more social,” but I’ve adapted the Smarter Goal System to really hone in.

Being more social turned into “attending one friend date and one networking initiative per week.” It’s something I can simply check off every week because it’s a measurable metric.

Where are your goals right now? Don’t hide them away. Get the vision for discipline asap.

Be an accountability assassin.

One of the tricks I play on myself is total accountability assassination. When I wanted to excel in business, I invested time and money into coaching. Once I was in, I had to be disciplined because losing that money wasn’t worth it to me.

When I wanted to get into better shape, I signed up for a yoga studio membership that was recurring every month. Growing up in a Dutch family, I hate nothing more than seeing money go to waste. So I held myself accountable by showing up 3-5 days per week.

Now, you may not care about losing money, but what kind of accountability trick can you play on yourself? Here are some of my favourites.

  • Get an accountability buddy. Tell a friend about a goal and ask them to simply check in to ask how it’s going regularly. Maybe not daily, but weekly for sure.
  • Schedule your calendar and stick to it. If you have a goal of reading one book every month, block off your reading time so it doesn’t slip through the cracks.
  • Seek a mentor or hire a coach. This differs from your accountability buddy because they’re professional accountability assassins. A coach or mentor is someone who will shake things up when you’re not moving the needle forward. The investments I made in coaches paid off tenfold for this reason.

Just start for 5 minutes.

I love doing my bookkeeping….said no one ever. Ok, maybe a few of you, and you’re one of a kind. It’s usually something I would have great intentions of staying on top of in Q1, but by Q4, I had months of receipts piled up from who-knows-when.

What I began to do was just start for 5 minutes. You’ll want to be in a welcoming environment. For me, this meant rave beats and a clean office. For you, it might mean a glass of wine at your kitchen table. Whatever the vibe is, you gotta vibe.

I’d tell myself that if I could just do this for 5 minutes, it’s better than nothing. Once you’re in the groove, you realize it isn’t so bad, and you’ll keep going.

Sometimes that means you’re showing up to the gym for 5 minutes until your motivation shows up for the entire hour. Sometimes it’s getting through the first section of your business grant application. Just 5 minutes of discipline can be a great start.

Don’t be discouraged if you’ve fallen off the motivation wagon. You’re not alone! Dust yourself off and carry on. Discipline will bring you back.

I’ve been telling a few people in my circle that I’m interested in doing product photography. I watch videos about it, I listen to product photographers on their process, and I’ll even start to source some props. But have I actually taken any product-focused photos? Nope.

I’m implementing my lessons of discipline this month and sharing 1 photo of product photography every week from January 15 until December 15. Check out my Instagram to see the results!

Have you hacked your motivation? What helps you stay disciplined? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments below.