Finding Motivation: All Things Are Difficult Before They Are Easy

Much has been said about finding motivation, and rightfully so. Elusive as it may sometimes be, you don’t get better at anything (job, hobby, task, sport) or achieving any personal goal, without it. 

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” Thomas Fuller

You may have been initially motivated by passion to achieve your goal, but when that passion wanes, what then remains to fuel your motivation? 

Lightbulb plugging in it's cord

Time and Commitment 

Getting better at anything requires setting your goal, committing, and then putting in the requisite time to achieve success. Making the commitment and then putting in the requisite time are two separate but essential stepping-stones. 

Your initial commitment, the first stepping-stone, is taking that first glorious step along a thousand-mile journey. Think about how many times you have started something but never finished it. Do you want this to end up in that same trash heap of never-met personal goals? 

What of the mandatory second step to success – making the time? You don’t ever “find the time” to do anything or do it “when you have the time.'” To accomplish anything of substance, you must make the time, which is the critical second stepping-stone to achieving your goals.

motivational saying on a board

Getting past the commitment step and then past the time step will undoubtedly point you in the right direction, but what about step number 187 or, even further down the road, step number 1,298? How can you stay equally as motivated at step number 1,298 as you did at step one? 

It’s common to rely on your initial passion or inspiration to spark your motivation for the ongoing steps. However, by their very nature, emotions are fleeting and, as such, cannot be relied upon to support such a long-term commitment.

Mental Discipline

Mental discipline is your most powerful ally in achieving any challenging but attainable goal. Any great athlete, musician, competitor, artist, performer, et al. have made their mark in this world, not because of luck or chance but because they were perpetually fueled by motivation.

If not by emotion, passion, or inspiration, then from where may you resupply when motivation has depleted? There are only one of two sources it can come from, either your body or your mind. So which is the stronger of the two? 

Your body tells you when you’re hungry, when you need sleep and when it’s time to poop. Still, it will give you zero physiological indication or impulse to complete the required practice necessary to achieve your goals.

Child preforming karate move

You can rely on your genetic encoding to help you look toward a good meal, a restful sleep, and the like, but not to get off your ass and get to the gym, go for a run, practice your dry fire, etc. All of these require motivation which can only come from one remaining source – your mind.

Although you may have been initially motivated by passion and emotion, there are days when both are in total hibernation and nowhere to be found. You can only rely on your mental discipline to refill your motivation fuel tank on those days. However, even this might be available in short supply. Fortunately, more valuable tools are at your disposal to help spur the horse of discipline.

Downsize and Accessibility

You may sometimes feel overwhelmed. “Well, that’s just a lot to do in such a small amount of time.” It’s ok to take it in smaller chunks – even just one baby chunk, but to do nothing at all sets you back, creates a detrimental barrier between you and your goals, and may even make you feel guilty about doing nothing. 

Some days you’re just dragging ass, and you simply cannot get through all of your usual routines. Ok, got it. If you’re having a down day, at least commit to half or a piece of it, even the most effortless part – some are better than none.

The easy answer is just to start doing something. Make yourself step away from that chair, get up and activate your body. Get to the gym, get to the range, walk over to your designated dry fire station. Getting there is more than half the battle. Step one to doing anything is you must first show up and place yourself in the environment. 

used shooting target hung on a tree

Another helpful tool used in spurring motivation is to make it easily accessible. Have your gym shoes, training gear, or the other necessary accouterments right in your face at arm’s length. The more convenient the accessibility, the more accessible your motivation will be. There is a direct correlation between convenience and motivation. Why do you think department stores sell more of those products located closer to the checkout lines? Accessibility and convenience.

Thought, Word, and Deed

The ancient adage “thought, word, and deed” directly applies here. You can think about it all day. You can talk about it all day, but it’s the deed, going out there and doing it, that matters. No amount of thinking or talking can replace even ten minutes of doing, which leads to the use of thought, word, and deed as a tool to jump-start your motivation and spur you into action. 

When’s the last time you went to the gym, ran, did yoga, or dry-fired and felt bad after doing it? Then, you reward yourself for doing that thing that you set out to do – mission success. 

Think, “You know, if I don’t go to the gym, go for a walk, or practice, this will be the third day in a row that I skipped.” Use your emotion to your advantage. Think about how it feels every time after you hit the gym, went for a run, got to the range, and finished your dry fire practice. Now compare that feeling to the one where you blew it off that day. Which is better tasting mind candy?

metal shooting target at an outdoor shooting range

You can let your thoughts control you or manage your thoughts. “Ahhh, the hell with it. I can go tomorrow.” Don’t let defeating thoughts shut down your “thought, word, deed” processing tool. Motivating thoughts are one-third of the equation. Say it out loud, put it out there into your real world: “Yup, getting those running shoes on now…” The fruit of thought and word is deed.

The thought and the words are two steps in the right direction. Turning the key in your car’s ignition, and sending an electric charge to the starter, is a requisite first step, but the starter needs to turn over. Your body is physical and taking physical action is the start. Following thought, word and deed is physical action which reignites motivation.

After setting your goals, making your commitment, and scheduling your time, your mental discipline is what takes over. Your discipline support tools can and should include downsizing by doing it in smaller chunks and less time. You don’t need to take on the intended task in its entirety. Allow yourself less time. It’s ok to do it for just ten minutes so you can say that you did it. But, keep it readily accessible and in the forefront of your environment. 

Some days you find yourself more motivated than others. You can launch yourself out from that gate into a full gallop on those good days. On your less-than-motivated days, you can use your mind and body via the thought, word, and deed process, to help propel you further away from doing nothing.

neon motivation sign on a wood back drop

Steve Tarani is a former fulltime CIA protective programs employee, small arms and defensive tactics subject matter expert who served on POTUS 45 pre-election executive protection detail. He is the lead instructor for NRA’s non-ballistic weapons training program offered nationally. Tarani is also a DoD and FLETC-certified federal firearms instructor who has been on staff at Gunsite Academy (AZ) as a Rangemaster for over twenty years. Formerly sworn, he is also a former federal contractor and service provider for the US Defense Intelligence Community, US Naval Special Operations Command and other government agencies. Tarani additionally serves on the National Sheriffs’ Association Committee for School Safety and Security.

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