Rethinking Discipline: How I Stay 'Motivated'

TAGS: how i stay motivated, powerlifting motivation, training consistency, lifting goals, discipline, chad aichs

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From time to time I am asked how I stay motivated. This question always baffles me. It honestly makes my mind stumble and takes me a second to figure out how to answer it. My answer usually revolves around the idea that motivation is a feeling that relates to the concept of discipline. As of late, it seems this subject continues to come up a lot, and it has had me reevaluating my usual thought process on the subject. This has given me a chance to see it all from a bit of different perspective.

I can’t actually remember the first time I was asked about how I stay motivated, but I do remember being stumbled by it. I honestly did not understand the question, because I never once thought about motivation or staying motivated when it came to training. In my mind, I had a goal and I needed to be consistent with my training to reach that goal; it was that simple to me. Yes, there were times it was easy to stay consistent and times it was hard to stay consistent. I guess you could say I was more motivated when it was easy and not so much when it was hard. Either way, the motivation was irrelevant to me. I knew what I wanted to achieve and I knew I had to train to do that. When training was hard to do, I never once thought, “How am I going to stay motivated?” Instead, I thought, “I want to achieve my goal so I better get my ass to the gym and get my training done!” It was not complicated to me.


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Motivation is nothing more than a feeling. Have you ever heard someone say, “Man, I am feeling really motivated today” or, “Wow, I am not feeling very motivated today”? It is just a feeling. That means it is never wrong, but it also means it will come and go. Feelings are never constant and the only thing they ever really do for sure is change. If your plan is to rely on a feeling to achieve your goals then you are setting yourself up for failure. You should definitely utilize feelings, but do not rely on them.

As I mentioned, my answer to the question of motivation is discipline. Screw motivation. If you want to achieve something, you need to be disciplined. In my mind, it was old-boot-camp-tough-ass-drill-instructor discipline: screw feelings, get tough and be a man that gets the work done. Honestly, I love this idea. It is tough, violent, and just gives this idea of an unstoppable being — a big, badass machine that only sees the goal and will not let anything get in its way of achieving it. As much as I love this idea and want to see myself in this way, I am realizing it is not the truth. I love training, and even though it can be tough and frustrating, I always enjoy it. Sure, sometimes it is a chore, but for the most part, it has always been awesome. I wasn’t a machine doing something emotionless just to achieve a goal. There was a ton of emotion in it and way more of that was positive than negative.

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I think there is a big misconception about discipline, especially in areas such as weight training. I will admit that some of this comes from lifters such as myself that like the idea of it being so tough. Discipline is nothing more than the work and dedication it takes to learn a skill. It doesn’t have to be horrible or bad. It doesn’t have to be emotionless or boring. The fact is that learning a skill is one of the greatest ways for a human to truly feel pleasure and happiness. Discipline is just the process of learning that skill. Even though this process can be tough, long, and difficult, with many ups and downs, it can also be very pleasurable. Discipline to learn a skill is not really so tough.

As much pride as I take in my powerlifting achievements and what I put myself through to achieve them, it really wasn’t that bad. Yes, I worked my ass off. Yes, I had times of great struggle and frustration. Yes, I gave up a lot in my life. Still, when I look back on these things and I tell stories about them, I have a huge smile on my face. For all the hard times and work, there were still way more ups than downs. Even the downs were never really that bad because they simply allowed me to greater appreciate the ups. I always talk with great appreciation for the fact that I am friends with some of the strongest lifters in history and that I have been able to be around them and have great discussions with them. In all those discussions, I have never once experienced any of them saying they hated training and that it was so difficult, or that they only did it to achieve world records. I have never heard anything even close to that. What I do hear are great stories from training where you can see in their eyes and hear in their voices just how much they love training. I hear stories of amazing times with training partners in training and at competitions. None of these lifters achieved the highest level without putting in some serious hard work and dedication. Yes, they all have stories of struggle with injuries and just tough training. Still, they all love what they do and they do it because they love it. It brings them great pleasure.

The reason that the question of motivation baffles me is that motivation isn’t really even important to being successful. In a way, discipline isn’t important to being successful either, because it is nothing more than a byproduct. The reason I was so successful in powerlifting is that I loved it. I loved learning the skills of strength. I loved improving and becoming stronger. I loved the hard work and dedication because it meant I was getting better. I loved going to seminars and gaining as much knowledge about strength as I could. Even now, I still love training and am finding more and more enjoyment in coaching. I loved challenging myself to see how far I could push myself. It was not some great sacrifice to train. I did not have to struggle to get to the gym every day or do the stuff I had to in order to reach the level I did. At the same time, it was tough and sometimes I did have to dig very deep inside myself to keep pushing forward. I never had to search for motivation or focus on being disciplined. Everything I did, I did because I love lifting and it brought me pleasure.

There is this great misconception out there that top athletes are so dedicated and disciplined, but I call bullshit on that. I will never take anything away from a top athlete because I know the hard work and dedication it takes to be there, but at the same time, when you love it, it is not really all that bad or hard. I have never met a top athlete that did not love what they do. Yes, maybe after so many years of it or after giving so much of their life they want to do other things, but still, it was their love of it that got them to the level they achieved. I truly believe this goes for anything in life. The people that become the best parents love being parents. The people that become the best professionals love what they do. It is the people that hate what they do or only like it rather than love it that become mediocre. This is because, without the pleasure, love, or passion for what we do, we will never have enough discipline or motivation to achieve the highest level.


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I have never taken the time to celebrate any achievements in my powerlifting career. I believe the longest I ever celebrated a world record was about five seconds, after which I immediately started figuring what I could have done better, what I needed to work on in order to lift more. I have often looked back on this and wondered why I did that. Why was it not a bigger thing to me than it was? I think there are many reasons, but as I am writing this article it dawns on me that maybe it was not even so much about achieving the goal, or at least not a specific number goal. Maybe it was never about the journey or the goal, but instead about the lifting itself, about learning the skill of strength, and testing my own learned knowledge on myself. Even now as I have different goals in life I continue to train, but not at the level I once did. I find myself wanting to help other lifters more to spread the knowledge I have learned. Even though I do not test my own level of strength like I used to, I find myself wanting to still learn more and then test myself as a coach. The love for strength is still inside me and strong as ever.

So, how will I answer the next lifter that asks me how I stay motivated? What advice do I want to give lifters on the subject of motivation and strength? It seems to me that if a lifter has questions about motivation or discipline, maybe they need to consider another pursuit or reevaluate how they look at training. I do not want to turn anyone away from lifting because I love it and think it can teach people so much in all aspects of their lives. At the same time, if you don’t love it but still for some reason think you want to be a world record holder then you need to start being completely honest with yourself. Life is short and we should go after pursuits we have passion for. Maybe lifting is something you do to a different level, and there is something else you would be better going after at a high level. Personally, I do think everyone should lift weights to some level, even if just for the quality of life.

On the other hand, maybe you do love lifting and have the passion but don't have the right perspective. Don’t worry so much about being motivated all the time. Life itself is full of waves, and so will your lifting be. I hate to say this because some people will misunderstand, but don’t even worry too much about your goals. I only say this because goals come and go. You achieve them and then set bigger ones. If you have to focus on something then focus on the lifting and the training. Don’t let yourself forget why you started lifting in the first place or why you have continued lifting. Focus on learning more about the skills of strength. Focus on increasing your knowledge of strength so you can keep increasing your physical strength. Basically, don’t try to outthink your passion and love for the strength sport you are in. I continue to catch myself saying to keep it simple, stupid, and I stand by that. Do it because you love it and never let yourself lose that in all the crap out there. If you do this, the rest will work itself out.

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