How to Work Without Motivation

I was on Instagram the other day and one of my favorite fitness competitors posted the following:

“Forget motivation. It’s fickle, unreliable, and it’s not worth your time. Better to cultivate habits than rely on motivation. Force yourself to do things. Force yourself to get out of bed and practice. Force yourself to work. Motivation requires no concentrated effort. Motivation comes to you and you don’t even have to work for it. Motivation is fleeting. Habits are reliable. The question is not how to stay motivated, but how to train yourself to work without it.”

@fitnsassycassie on Instagram


For years, I’ve been a self-help author, relentless focus coach and, *gasp* “motivational” speaker… and here was this NPC figure competitor throwing all of that “inspiration” out the window and saying:

“Screw that. Real champions succeed without the fuzzy feelings.”

And that’s when it hit me: the REAL secret to staying the course and achieving ANY dream isn’t in refueling your level in motivation; it’s in being able to persist and take daily, massive action WITHOUT it.

Elbert Hubbard described it this way: “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do when you should do it whether you feel like it or not.” But, this operating without motivation thing is WAY BIGGER than self-discipline.

This is really about SELF-MASTERY.

And most people never condition themselves to do operate without “feeling like it.”

So how do you do what most people won’t? How do you train yourself to work without motivation?

Here are 5 steps I’m taking to learn this champion skill:

1. Recognize the opportunity.

There’s nothing to gain or learn or develop when you’re excited to do the work. What you get done during the honeymoon phase of anything means very little. Everybody’s excited in the beginning.

The opportunity arrives when the last thing you want to do is the work and you have to make a decision: do it or don’t. True commitment isn’t proven in the honeymoon phase. Anyone can bounce their way through the beginning. The test of your stamina comes only when you lose motivation, passion and excitement… and you have to ask yourself, “Is this REALLY worth doing?” Your YES in this moment will build your persistence muscles more than anything else.

2. Pick a side.

Ask yourself, “Which camp do I want to be in? The top 3% who do what they have to do whether they feel like it or not. Or the other 97% who live “normal” lives and do big things only when they “feel” like it?”

Either you want exceptional or you’re willing to settle for average and, with every moment of decision, you get to choose.

3. Create 3 simple startup rituals.

(and make them easy to jump into)

Decide how your day is going to go before the day arrives. Whether you plan out an entire week every Sunday night or, like I do, plan out each day the night before, be intentional about how you’ll spend every 24 hour increment of time.

Be sure that you set each task/activity up for success by doing as much as the prep work in advance. For example, I hit the gym every morning at 4:30 am. I have 5 days worth of gym clothes (including socks and sneakers) set up in my closet and ready to be pulled out and put on first thing in the morning. I put my workout towel in my purse the night before (my weight lifting gloves and arm band are already in my pursue) and I keep a 2nd workout towel in my car in case I forget the one in my purse. This makes developing the habit of waking up and working out simple to perform.

I also have very simple wake up rituals that happen before I leave for the gym: 3 of them- get out of bed, meditate for 7 minutes, brush my teeth and get dressed, say my morning affirmations. That’s it… and then I’m ready to head to the gym.

I also plan out what cardio classes I’m going to do the night before. I don’t plan them out a week in advance because, for me, it doesn’t work. Something in my schedule always changes but the night before works great.

Bottom line: make creating the habit of working without motivation easy to fulfill.

4. Detach from these “feel good” pre-requisites.

Most people are “waiting” to take massive action… and they are waiting on certain pre-requisites, namely:

  • enough sleep
  • enough energy
  • enough positivity
  • enough focus
  • enough money
  • enough time

If you’re waiting on that to create the life you want or to achieve your dreams, you’ll be waiting forever. All of the above “pre-requisites” are excuses. What if you didn’t need any of the above to do what you have to do when you have to do it? HINT: You don’t.

Anything you need to create, at any time you need to create it, you now (exactly as you are with no less and no more) have the ability to create. How do you know that this is true?

Remember a time when the stakes were high and you had no choice but to deliver, didn’t you come through? I bet you did. When the stakes are high enough, you’ll get it done.

Bottom line: Give yourself a high stakes mentality 24/7. Don’t let life force that on you.

5. Make yourself do it.

And here’s the unsexy, really simple and, yet, really hard one.

This is your wall.

This is my wall.

This is everybody’s wall.

If we told the truth, there are times when we’re all little two year olds falling out on the floor in a temper tantrum because “I don’t wanna do it!!!!!” We all have those moments… and this is the challenge to any perceived limit of what you’re capable of doing without motivation.

It won’t feel good to take consistent, daily, massive action without motivation. But feeling good isn’t the point. Building your endurance, stamina and success is. And you don’t get there by waiting to feel good or hoping you’ll feel good or amping yourself up to feel good.

You get there by looking yourself in the eye, restating what it is you’re working towards and saying 5 words to yourself (as many times as you need to):

No excuses. Get it done.


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