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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Siems

All Or Nothing Doesn’t Give Us “All”, It Usually Gives Us “Nothing"

I have been in the health and fitness world since 2012 where I have heard "Discipline is Better Than Motivation" more times than I can remember. Most of the time it was on Instagram or YouTube from some motivational speaker or person with six pack abs who is the picture of what you imagine PERFECT looks like.

In the back of my mind I acknowledge that they are probably right, but they look like they already have everything together and it's much easier said than done. Honestly, most of the time it made me feel even worse about myself because if that were true then I had absolutely no discipline. My life, body, relationships, and mental health were not what I wanted even though I felt like I was putting in the effort.

It turns out they were right. But I was unsuccessful because I tried to be disciplined with TOO MUCH TOO FAST. I have found if I have a productive morning then it tends to set up the rest of my day to be successful, so I wrote down a plan to have a productive morning by being disciplined. Here is what that "productive disciplined morning" looked like.

6am: wake up, immediately get out of bed, shower/get ready for the day

6:30am: breakfast/coffee while watching a TED Talk or other inspiring video

7:00am: reading/journaling

8:00am: stretch/yoga for 30min.-1hr.

Looks like a productive and inspiring morning! It was obviously not sustainable. I tried for months to stick to it but was successful 5% of the time, and when I couldn't maintain a portion of it I didn't do any of it. I felt even worse about myself than I did before I started.

A few years later and much more depressed and frustrated I decided to only have one, and only one, thing as a discipline. The non-negotiable discipline I chose was to do the workout program I was subscribed to. I was consistently in the gym for a number of years but the workouts I did were a mix of things I saw on Instagram, things I randomly felt like doing, or the program I was paying for. With a mixed focus I earned mixed results. At the start of my new focused discipline I told myself I could do whatever else I wanted, but the only thing I ever HAD to accomplish was doing the workout on my program.

I was successful at about an 85% rate, which included traveling for a week at a time once a month for 12 months straight. I didn't see much change for 6 of those months, but stuck with it. There were many days it felt like a half-hearted effort, but it was still effort. In the last 6 months of my focused discipline I saw more progress than I had in several years.

A fascinating side affect to being successful in my discipline was that I became even more motivated! The takeaway I hope you glean from my story is that discipline is indeed better than motivation, but only to the extent that you can stick with it. Find ONE thing that you know for a fact you can complete 9/10 times and start there. Success in discipline will build motivation.

Live long and prosper my friends!


“All or nothing doesn’t give us “all”, it usually gives us “nothing”. Instead, practice “always something”.

-Dr. John Berardi

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