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Why Routine Means More than Motivation

A quick search in Instagram for the hashtag “motivation” shows that over 198,000,000 photos have that tag attached to them as of this writing.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

A quick search in Instagram for the hashtag “motivation” shows that over 198,000,000 photos have that tag attached to them as of this writing.

198 million photos.

Now that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the staggering amount of photos posted on Instagram. Since the social media giant’s inception, over 40 BILLION photos have been shared with the world.

Now that’s a number. It’s not too much of a surprise when you realize that nearly 100 million photos are posted every single day. It’s still impressive as hell.

Those figures tell me two things. First, if you want to have your photo noticed by a lot of people, tag it with “motivation.” Second, the concept of motivation is a powerful one.

Whether it’s trying to talk yourself into sticking to your diet, finishing your latest project, or running just one more mile, motivation is a strong, well, motivator.

However, it’s not the thing that’s going to keep you going when you’d rather be doing anything else.

How motivation fails you

Think of motivation as a car. It’s super powerful, it’ll get you going quickly, and it’ll keep you going for a while, but that gas tank is going to run out. Before you know it, you’ll be running on fumes and hoping you won’t be stuck on the side of some strange road out in the middle of nowhere.

Motivation is a quality that needs to be refueled, sometimes every single day.

I do believe in the power of motivation, but it’s never something you can depend on to always be there. To be frank, motivation can and will fail you.

Remember that last time you started a new exercise plan? You got up early, laced up your shoes, and started moving outside in the fresh morning air. It’s a great feeling. You feel good and you promise yourself this is the one you’re going to stick with.

But then you have a crappy day or you wake up feeling miserable. Suddenly all that motivation you had at the start of your new plan goes out the window. All you want to do is stay inside, curled up under a nice blanket with a bowl of hot tomato soup.

It’s totally understandable. Exercising on a consistent basis is a difficult thing to accomplish. Despite its clear benefits, exercise can wear you out and sometimes it hurts. Our bodies are really good at convincing themselves to stop doing what causes them pain.

Now your snazzy shoes are sitting on the bottom shelf of your shoe rack, you’re enjoying ice cream a lot, and you’re waiting for the next time you’ll feel motivated to get outside and move around.

Motivation is great until it isn’t there anymore. It’s a fleeting desire. I don’t trust in motivation for the long haul. I believe in routine.

It’s all about the routine

Routine is the secret. Routine is what leads to habit and habit is what we should all be aiming for if we want something to stick.

I’ve set out a weekly routine for these blog posts. Every Wednesday, I sit at my desk and get my fingers moving across my keyboard.

There are some weeks when I’d really rather do anything else; the siren song of Netflix is a strong one. Instead of giving in, I deny my couch the pleasure of my company because these blog posts need to be done. No ifs, ands, or buts.

I’m able to get my butt onto a chair and get writing because I’ve turned this sometimes laborious task into a weekly routine. It’s a task I must complete if my week is going to be complete.

Granted, I enjoy writing these posts, so it’s not always like pulling teeth, but I make sure to stick to my schedule even on the good days.

Save for a debilitating illness, I give myself no room for excuses about writing these posts. I don’t wait for motivation to get me leaping into action. I do it because a significant part of my business depends on delivering a new post every single week. If I were to fail at this regular writing, then important parts of my life would start to suffer.

Put simply, I write a post every Wednesday because that’s what I do on Wednesdays.

I understand if the logic of that sounds a bit circular. I don’t think it’s necessarily supposed to make complete sense. The goal is to get me to do what I need to do without fail.

To bring it back around to the exercising example from earlier, hoping for the motivation to get you doing something tiring (and perhaps painful) everyday is going to lead to failure. If you depend 100% on motivation to get you to a goal, then you’re going to feel let down eventually.

That’s just how it is. No shame in that.

Setting up an exercise routine is the way to go. For instance, every morning you get up at 7:00 (or whenever), you put on your clothes, and you go outside for a brisk walk. You do that because if you don’t, then you’re letting down your routine.

If you don’t do that, then your life will be lacking.

Every morning, you get up and go for a brisk walk because that’s what you do every morning. There are no other alternatives. This is your routine. This is your life. Better get used to it.

Starting anything new can be a challenge in itself. I commend anybody who seeks to better a part of their lives. Getting this Squarespace web design business running has been no easy task, but I’ve done it and I’m proud of that.

I can tell you with confidence that I wouldn’t have been able to keep this business going if I’d just depended on motivation to get me through the tough days.

No way in hell.

I’ve only gotten to where I am because I keep showing up at my desk every day to work. I’m not giving myself the option to slack off. I do the work of building great websites for people every single day because that’s the routine I’ve set for myself.

In the end, that’s the one of the real secrets to “making it.” It’s not about scraping up whatever motivation you can find at the bottom of the motivation barrel. It’s about just doing the work because that’s what you do. You did it yesterday and you’re going to do it tomorrow.

Excuses don’t even factor into the conversation, so set a routine and get going.

Do it every day, cats.

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.


Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶

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