Do the Hard Work Especially When You Don’t Feel Like It

Do the Hard Work Especially When You Don’t Feel Like It

The feeling is all too familiar – the deadline is approaching, and the motivation isn’t there. You are staring at the computer screen, willing the right words that never come or avoiding opening the books despite exams being around the corner. We’ve all been there. Pushing through these low drive and energy moments can be challenging, but cultivating the discipline to do the hard work despite fluctuating motivation could transform how you achieve your goals and live your life.

Why Hard Work Trumps Motivation

Hard work refers to intense, focused, consistent effort toward practicing a skill or achieving an objective. Especially when challenges feel insurmountable, hard work builds the grit and determination needed to power through. Harvard psychologist Angela Duckworth’s research reveals those with “grit” – the tendency to sustain interest and effort despite adversity or plateaus – accomplish more. Hard work also enables facing fears and building confidence to tackle more challenges. Ultimately, it maximizes opportunities and abilities – critical for reaching your potential.

Compare this to motivation: an enthusiastic yet intermittent drive to take action relies significantly on mood, mindset, and outside inspiration. Motivation provides needed energy during goal pursuit but fails to sustain effort once inspiration runs dry. Unfortunately, problems are rarely resolved after an inspired overnight work sprint. Lasting solutions necessitate tireless skill refinement and repeated failures before success. This is where discipline bridges the gap – pushing ahead when motivation inevitably dips.

World-renowned writers, artists, and inventors reflecting on their creative process highlight fewer breakthrough moments of inspiration, more dedication, and discipline during long days filled with frustration and doubt. Their words aptly capture the mantra underlying all sustained achievement: “Do the hard work, especially when you don’t feel like it.”

What Fuels Motivation and Why It Has Limits

Motivation encompasses biological, emotional, and social factors regulating behavior – all powerful influences but simultaneously mercurial and external. Biologically, motivation is governed significantly by dopamine. When dopamine floods neural synapses, often during novelty or enjoyment, individuals experience sensations frequently described as “driven,” “focused,” and “thrilled about starting something.” But dopamine ebbs and flows erratically, leaving motivation’s duration unpredictable.

Emotionally, inspiration that moves one today may feel irrelevant tomorrow as one’s mood changes. Creativity researchers emphasize how emotions permeate the inventive process – artists feeling deeply connected to projects one day enter trenches of self-doubt the next after a setback or criticism. Motivation grounded predominantly on transient emotional states mutates frequently.

Choose Discipline Over Motivation

Discipline means structure, consistency, diligence, and, most importantly, habit. Establishing habits through repetition builds internal drive and empowers action despite fluctuating external or internal conditions. Essentially, discipline internalizes motivation, so it persists without continual outside inspiration.

Research confirms activating motivation produces short bursts while discipline carved into habits, routines, and time management systems yields enduring change. In a study of thousands striving towards fitness, career, or relationship goals, discipline accurately predicted accomplishment and well-being over motivation. Discipline finessed into habit sidesteps traps of irregular effort by enforcing order and planned skill-building, reflecting the truth that all journeys demand structure.

Building discipline requires identifying “tiny habits” – small actions easing significant habits – and anchoring them to daily routines, ensuring repetition until they stick. For instance, the habit of regular writing is overwhelming. But scribbling morning journal pages for 10 minutes sowed into a wake-up routine evolves more easily into multi-hour writing sessions. Tiny habits ensure consistency where motivation supplies initial inspiration.

Moving Through Resistance

When lacking motivation, resistance to hard work intensifies. Excuses flooding our thoughts aim to justify escaping action today – “I work better under pressure,” “I’ll start tomorrow,” or “I’m too tired.”

Recognizing resistance signals a belief the work and subsequent failure outweigh the reward. Our minds perceive struggle as a threat, activating our body’s stress response. Physiological changes, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol, then communicate “danger,” instructing us to avoid action.

Combat resistance first by normalizing struggle as necessary for growth. View challenges as information, not intimidation. Growth mindset research by psychologist Carol Dweck demonstrates how those believing abilities develop through effort persist through setbacks, whereas those seeing aptitude as fixed frequently quit. Reframe resistance as a sign of progress.

Also, reassert “why” this work matters, your vision for accomplishing it, specific people who will benefit, and remind yourself of previous successes. Purpose and visualization techniques keep motivation alive, reducing reluctance. Finally, it breaks tasks into microscopic steps, raising the likelihood of small acts being complete even when facing internal obstacles. Leverage tiny habits to progress forward.

In due time, action replaces hesitation. Resistance is common before any endeavor meaningful enough to change you. Let discipline override counterproductive risk analysis.

Practical Strategies for Hard Work

Implementing consistent effort despite wavering motivation demands practical structures ensuring you work wisely. Useful starting points:

  • Set “process” goals grounded in specific actions completed daily and weekly, not “performance” goals focused on longer-term outcomes partially outside your control in the early stages. Process goals provide essential feedback revealing incremental progress where performance metrics may remain stagnant, falsely signaling failure early on.
  • Wake earlier to ensure distraction-free time for priorities before demands encroach. Morning routine habits cement discipline.
  • Work in short bursts with scheduled breaks, balancing intense focus during sessions with adequate recovery, sharpening the ability to endure more extended strain over time.
  • Remove procurators by silencing notification apps that trigger distraction for set periods. Create access rules.
  • Publicly declare intentions to inject social accountability. Ensure transparency and regular check-ins with resources vitalizing motivation, like podcasts, books, and inspiring examples.
  • Award milestones are reached through progress tracking. Small rewards sustain discipline awaiting the eventual outcome.

Hard work necessitates structure, optimizing action, recovery, and resources. Install these, and motivation becomes less relevant.

Case Study: The Compounding Effect of Hard Work

Sandra began her creative writing journey, dreaming of fame and fortune from storytelling similar to renowned novelists she loved. This vision of renown initially motivated extensive reading on plot, character development, and prose in the genre she eventually sought to write. But when facing the blinking cursor of her still empty first page, motivation to start this ambiguous creative process eluded Sandra for months. In its absence, she found excuses – work was too busy, she lacked ideas, and she wasn’t indeed a writer despite consuming books on writing daily.

When motivation finally and fleetingly surfaced, inspiring action, Sandra wrote vigorously the first days before hitting walls from lack of skill and preparation. Discouraged she had little meaningful content to show for the intense effort, she abandoned writing until another wave of motivation arrived months later, emerging just as suddenly as before.

The months of starts and stops left Sandra with more half-written documents than completed pieces to compile even a short story collection. Priority was clear – she required discipline structures to ensure writing consistency, particularly on days when effort felt fruitless. She installed tiny habits by waking up early to journal daily – a small act that removed resistance and built writing habits even if the output seemed insignificant—celebrating habit consistency rather than measurable progress liberated Sandra from performance anxiety. Soon, she elongated writing blocks.

Over five years, Sandra has published over a dozen short stories and recently completed a novel draft through tenure to complete the routine above all. Without reliance on motivation, Sandra’s writing crystallized from ideas into tangible creations through small repeated actions instead of tremendous bursts she initially felt necessary to write. She now teaches writing and credits discipline for developing her writing ability, voice, confidence, and craft.

Key Takeaways

  •  Motivation provides short bursts, while discipline carved into habits drives enduring progress.
  • Reframe struggles as necessary for growth using mindset techniques.
  • Install practical structures optimizing action instead of motivation.
  • The compounding effect of small, consistent actions accrues over the years.


Determination fatigue is unavoidable for endeavors expanding skills and abilities. When lacking motivation, recognize that hard work remains essential for reaching your fullest potential. Leverage research-backed methods to override resistance and enlist discipline structures sustaining progress daily. Temper expectations around inspiration and amplify celebration of tiny gains completed through routine not dependent on mood. Your motivation may flicker, but you build an inextinguishable vision through discipline’s flame. Sandra’s story spotlights the exponential outcomes from compounding marginal wins through the tenacity of habit. Summon the will once more not to settle for less than your dreams demand and commit to progressive realization through repetition.