Months ago, a wise and humble sage (ahem) shot a now classic video on the two (primary) approaches athletes take on training.


And recently, a perceptive pupil pondered, “Why?”


(All right, I’ll stop hamming it up).


Why does purpose, discipline, and consistency yield greater results than motivation, passion, and preference? After all, isn’t motivation the cornerstone of hard work and getting the job done?


No. Discipline is.


However, I do not offer a hollow platitude in conceding how motivation, passion, and preference yields results; it’s simply the truth. The “capital-T truth” (credit to DFW) is not whether one approach delivers results categorically – both do – but rather to what degree you earn results.


Indeed, most athletes begin training driven by this approach. Combined with the adaptive power of youth – not to mention the abundance of free time we have when young – newness to training, and a social drive to look good, gains come easy. And, in the corner-cases of best possible situations, athletes will continue to see results, especially if given some inborn talent, genetic proclivity the majority of us only imagine ourselves to have, or the proper time and resources.


Because of its roots, commonly, in our youth, the motivation plus passion plus preference route is a golden sun-soaked unreality skewed through the warm lens of nostalgia for the vast percentage of workaday athletes.


It usually isn’t until later in life, or when some real and persistent obstacle presents itself, that we begin to see the failings of motivation, the emotional wavering of passion, and the subjective ineptitude of our bias. For some, such a realization comes too late. When the pounds have piled on, and the timer of our last gym visit switches from weeks to months to years.


In idle moments of daily life – cutting vegetables staring over a belly that has pushed us, centimeter by centimeter, away from the counter – our minds turn into the sunrise-like euphoric recollection of our bygone heydays. It multiplies the perception of how much glory we could recapture if we only harness the motivation and passion to improve in the ways we always wanted. The golden glow of our nostalgia illuminates the misbegotten process of our youth-borne results. And so, we hop on the teeter-totter of gym tourism and training program hopping, but now the pounds are stubborn, our gym numbers middling, and our motivation to follow this program or that only lasts as long as the next long weekend, rough day, or parent-teacher meeting.


Not to mention the fact how the fitness industry peddles bullshit to cash in on your late-night-no-really-I’m-serious-this-time motivational spark. After all, the jacked dude in the mansion is for real, right? He didn’t just rent the house and the car to sell you a diet plan or approach to life or workout plan that will definitely have you looking just like him, did he?


Or, there’s certainly no way that losing (for women, typically)/gaining (for men, typically) nine pounds in a week for four weeks is a false claim, right? The commercial said it was backed by research. RESEARCH! When we fall victim, we only purchase another dust collector for the garage or workout DVD set with some half-baked celebrity that occupies some cobwebbed corner of a TV stand.


Through luck, trial-and-error, research, or a mature reflection on what really works, we begin to see the difference between the aforementioned struggle loop and another approach. We begin to see the difference between motivation and discipline, between purpose and preference, and between consistency and passion.


Motivation is channeled desire, and desire is a fickle thing. No matter the earnestness of the personality behind the motivation, it comes and goes.


Discipline, on the other hand, is codified principles. Principles tend to stand against the ebb and flow of capriciousness, whim, and digression – to which desire typically surrenders.


Motivation, then, is a catalyst. It quickens the reaction between the other two factors: passion and preference, without augmenting the results. Of course, motivation could also be a catalyst for purpose, discipline, and consistency – indeed motivation could be more powerful in this combination. Yet, the sensible stoic perspective anticipates the waning nature of motivation, and abstains from embracing it as a necessary element of their approach-to-training formula.


Discipline frees athletes from relying on how motivated they are. Tired? Sore? Bad day at home or the office? Doesn’t matter. Discipline will deliver you to the doors of the gym every time. Motivation may, or may not. If results are what you’re after, is it worth the risk?


Purpose galvanizes the mind with the principles codified by discipline. Principles exist outside of your approach to training. Excellence, commitment, honor, and all other principles, are guiding tenets outside of training. Our purpose reinforces discipline to guide our behavior. Our principles determine the quality of our behavior. Given a purpose to achieve in the realm of fitness molds those principles in the mind toward training. Discipline orders and prioritizes them to provide consistency in behavior. Consistency in combination with purpose and discipline, over time, delivers unassailable results.


Results earned through this method are not flashy. They wouldn’t sell well on late-night TV. But they stick and they mean something, if for no other reason that they were earned during good times and bad. And the trajectory of results always points up and to the right. Rollercoaster results no more.


In the final analysis, perhaps the most salient and simultaneously overlooked point of the disciplined-based approach is it works for everyone. No need to be a genetic freak or have excessive time or resources available. And, if you do have those things, it will work even better than the motivation-based approach.


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