I get asked, “Tom, how do you stay motivated?” at least once a month. Somehow, I give the impression that I am a nuclear reactor of full of motivation, sunshine and unicorns. I give the impression that it is easy.
It’s not, really.
So, how do I stay motivated? In a word: Darkness.
Like Bruce Banner says in the first Avengers movie about becoming The Hulk, “That’s my secret, I’m always angry.” Despite my positive outlook (or stubbornness to eschew being pessimistic or negative) and despite my trying to find out what I can do versus what I can’t do, I’m “always” in Darkness.
Let me make an attempt to “wax poetically” for you, maybe it’ll make better sense that way.
Over the years, I’ve heard this little voice from the darkness say, “Give up.” It happens at least weekly, sometimes daily. Give up on the vision I am creating, give up on everything I am working for, stop believing, stop struggling, stop fighting, stop dreaming, just give up on your hopes and dreams.
In Greek mythology we are told the tale of Zeus snuffing out all the fires in the world, and Prometheus bringing it back (yes it’s a gross oversimplification of the myth, get over it). I have recognized that through the years there has also been this light, a Promethean-like fire, within me. Defiant of the assault that is hell-bent to snuff out the light of my world. By its presence alone, the fire says, “keep going. Keep moving forward.” The quest to snuff out this light has been a harrowing trial over the last little bit, for sure. All I know is, if this fire goes out, then my world will grow cold and a plague of death will spread throughout it.
So, guarding and clinging to this light, I don’t turn to run away from the darkness, despite everything in me screaming to run away. No, I run towards it. I might be fearful and the darkness is certainly the holder of things unknown, but I move towards it.
I do the only thing I know how to do right now.
I struggle and fight. Like the fire, I burn and I defy.
I get to the gym, I train, I challenge myself. Hitting the gym, lifting weights, doing my boxing/conditioning, and now training BJJ helps me put the darkness in perspective. It has helped keep the light going. The training is used as a transcendent tool. Yes, my body gets stronger, but my mind, my will, my spirit are strengthened even more. I read, challenging myself on a different mental level than how my mind is challenged on the physical level. I read, I learn, I reflect, I plan and execute.
From this place of self-inflicted hardship, discipline, sweat and toil, and learning, the light brightens and things don’t seem as bad, they feel more manageable.
To me, it is of the utmost importance to protect this “light”. It is mission critical.
Mission Critical. I can not fail. I must not. That is how I stay motivated. Guard your light. Stay vigilant. Make it mission critical.