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Sticking to a Plan is More Important than Feeling Motivated

I was recently approached by an athlete who expressed frustration with their level of motivation. Despite being a very skilled athlete, she felt sluggish and didn’t feel she was bringing her best to each practice.

Many people believe motivation is key to performance. While motivation can help achieving your goals, it’s important to understand that discipline is ultimately what will help you become more effective in your training.

Motivation is like an emotion. It flows from day to day, it may come and go, and it can be influenced by a variety of external factors. You may be motivated to train hard after a particularly inspiring game or competition, but that motivation may not last if you face a string of setbacks or challenges.

Discipline is something you have control over. It is the ability to stick to a routine or plan, even when you don't feel motivated. When you have discipline, you are able to push through the tough days and keep working towards your goals. To maintain discipline, you need two things: a plan and standards you and others will hold you accountable to.

Developing discipline requires structure and consistency. This means setting a regular training schedule and sticking to it, even on days when you don't feel like it. It also means setting specific goals and creating a plan to achieve them. By following a structured plan, you can ensure that you are making progress and working towards your goals in a consistent and reliable way.

Developing discipline as a student-athlete can be difficult. One way is to find a role model or mentor who exemplifies discipline in their own training and ask for their guidance. You can also try using tools such as a planner or to-do list to help you stay organized and on track.

Another helpful tip is to break your goals down into smaller, more achievable tasks. This can help you stay motivated and make progress on a regular basis, rather than getting overwhelmed by trying to accomplish too much at once. Speaking of goals, outcome goals are only achievable when you set process goals.

Outcome goals are the end result of what you want to achieve. These goals are often focused on the end result and are specific, measurable, and time-based. An example might be to win a championship or to be selected for an all-star team.

Process goals are focused on the actions or steps you must take to achieve your outcome goal. They are often focused on the journey and are also specific, measurable, and time-based. A process goal for a student-athlete might be to improve your time in a specific event or to increase the number of reps you can do in a specific exercise.

Both outcome goals and process goals are important for success. Outcome goals provide direction and motivation. Process goals provide a specific plan of action to achieve the outcome. Both require discipline to achieve.

In addition to helping you become more effective in your training, discipline can also lead to other benefits. It can improve your time management skills, which can be especially important as a student-athlete balancing schoolwork and training. Discipline can also lead to a sense of accomplishment and pride in your work, which can be a powerful motivator in and of itself.

So, if you want to become a more effective student-athlete, start by developing discipline in your training. It may not be easy at first, but with practice and dedication, you can learn to stick to a structured routine and achieve your goals.

Trust the process.

Commit to the process.

And realize motivation is like an emotion.

It’s the result, how you feel, about sticking to a consistent process.

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Neil Wattier is a Mental Performance Coach leading science-backed performance coaching for athletes at all levels of sport performance. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona and an active member of the United States Air Force Reserve. He has helped individuals and teams realize their full potential while serving as a coach, advisor, and mentor to business executives, senior military leaders, young professionals, youth and adult athletes, fitness professionals, and faith communities.


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