Action Before Inspiration
Act first, get motivated later
There are three big lies about what sustainable exercise and good nutrition are made of.
Lie #1: You have to be “inspired” to practice.
Lie #2: You should always be “motivated” to practice.
Lie #3: “Experts” are always motivated to practice.
Even for healthy lifestyle pros, there’s no such thing as unwavering motivation.
You will not always be “motivated” or “inspired”. You will not always feel “flow”.
Motivation comes and goes. Some days that motivation will be totally MIA.
But that doesn’t matter.
You don’t need motivation nor inspiration to follow through on plans to practice, consistently.
In fact, what differentiates an “expert” from an “amateur” isn’t necessarily motivation. It’s action. “Experts” find focus. They find ways to move their body through the essential actions, regardless of how they feel.
Action before motivation
Common knowledge assumes that motivation and inspiration—in other words, a particular mental state—come before action.
Sometimes that’s true. Most of the time, it’s not.
Action often comes before motivation. Action creates the mindset of momentum.
For instance, let’s say one day you decide to go for a walk. You’re not really inspired per se, but your brain feels fuzzy and you want some fresh air.
At first, you just sort of clump along, staring at the ground.
After 5 or 10 minutes, the brisk breeze starts to clear the cobwebs. You stand taller and breathe more deeply. Your stride lengthens and your hips loosen up. Now you’re walking proudly. You have direction.
The movement is actually giving you energy.
After 20–30 minutes, you finish that walk on a high.
Your brain fuzz is gone, replaced by crystal-clear thoughts. Your body is energized. You feel re-engaged with life and the universe.
Now you’ve found that motivated mental state.
You acted first.
Motivation is fickle
Motivation and inspiration are like cats: They’re fickle in their affections, and they tend to disappear when you want them around.
You can’t depend on cats. Nor can you depend on motivation and inspiration.
Instead, you can depend on 3 Ss:
Structures are the things and environments that surround us, and the things we put in place to ensure that things get done.
- Have a daily or weekly routine that helps you stay organized.
- Look for a gym that is convenient and on your way home from work.
- Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food.
What needs to be around you in order to support your goals? How can you make your structure easier for yourself?
Then build those structures.
Systems are the processes and practices we use to make things happen.
- Have an evening ritual of packing your gym clothes.
- Or have a morning ritual of making your food for the day.
- Start your workout with the mobility warm-up routine that prepares you to move comfortably and effectively.
What needs to happen for you to be effective? What processes and practices need to be in place?
Then create and do those things.
You don’t just wait for the morning when you feel like going to the dentist. You book an appointment.
Likewise, we don’t just wait till inspiration strikes—we book a time to hit the gym. We know that at 5 p.m. on Monday, we should be pumping some iron or pounding out the miles at the track.
Book your fitness and nutrition just like you book any other appointment.
Make it a time priority, put it into your calendar, and stick to it.