Most people believe successful athletes are highly driven and always motivated, however being a successful has little to do with motivation. Talented is a word also often thrown around when we are talking about successful athletes, although talent and even physical athleticism is only a small piece of the picture. Often the best “athletes” quit early, especially when their talent and athleticism are tested. Successful athlete are forged through hard work, willingness to be test and better themselves everyday.

Where you start is far less important then where you’re willing to go. Motivation may get you started, but everything after that is whether you are willing to do what is needed to end up where you want to be. Motivation can be a part of the journey, although it will ebb and flow. So if motivation isn’t the key to becoing a successful athlete then what is? Athletes who consistently do the hard work required have several core values and practices in common. Here’s how you can adopt them yourself.

7 ways to train when you don’t feel motivated

1. Have a deeper reason.
A deeper reason is the fail-safe that keeps you going when you don’t really want to. Think of someone in your life that is important to you and who inspires you. This person can become the reason to be successful in the first place whether it’s to make them proud or have someone to look up to. If your struggling to think of someone ask yourself this “When you have your biggest successes or failures, who do you want to talk to about them? Why?”. When times are tough or you can’t be bothered imagine that person watching you in one of your most difficult moments. What do you want them to see? As the Ancient Greeks used to say,

“live as though all of your ancestors were living again through you.”

2. Find your purpose and passion through being uncomfortable.
What is your purpose and passion? The word passion stems from the Latin meaning for patior – to suffer or endure. How often have you heard of a successful athlete having to overcome a hard up-bringing or some kind of hardship to become the person they are. You can do the same. Remind yourself everyday of what your purpose and passion is, make it a reminder on your phone, say it 3 times to yourself in the show, what every you need to do to reinforce your direction. When your really struggling remind yourself of your passion and purpose, this will help you stay on track towards your goals.

3. Rely on systems instead of willpower.
If motivation isn’t what we need then surely it’s more willpower? Not quite. When a challenge is presented to us we don’t rise to to the occasion, rather we fall to our level of training. You should be planning and priortizing your training according to the goal you want to achieve. By planning and scheduling your training into your daily activities (just like you do with uni or work), you are creating a system to improve performance. Systems make decision making much easier, they help you prioritize what to do and when to do it. In-turn the amount of willpower you need to make a “good” decision is reduced.

For example if you want to get up early to go to the gym don’t rely on promises and discipline, fall back on your systems. Set an alarm and put it on the other side of the room so when it goes off you have no choice but to get up.

4. Separate your feelings from your identity.
Feelings are normal and it’s fine to have feelings but they don’t have to control your behaviours. Feelings don’t have to determine who you are and what you choose to do. Simply knowing this can make it easier to carry on when we don’t feel like it.

5. Use behavior to change negative feelings.
When embarking on a challenging goal it is only inevitable that negative feelings are going to arise. In these circumstances put your behaviours first. Overtime you will develop more control over your feelings. What we choose to do doesn’t just reveal our preferences, they shape them.

One strategy you can use when you hit a low point, is to promise yourself you can quit tomorrow, so long as it’s after this workout. Once you’ve completed the workout you’ll feel accomplished and proud of yourself for fighting through your workout. The next workout won’t feel as daunting because you know you can over come anything. Repeat this often enough and you’ll reinforce the decision and action to “do the thing that’s good for me right now,” and it’ll shape your future impulses and preferences.

6. Take advantage of failing.
When your motivation is low think back to a time when things were even harder. No matter how hard those times were you still found a way to get through and you’ll get through this time as well. Even if you failed you still survived.

Use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. The next time you feel like your about to fall off the wagon remember that even failure provides an opportunity. Get your butt in the gym and learn, even if you don’t hit a personal record or complete the whole workout, just do something.

7. Learn from mistakes and develop new skills.
Resilient, athletes don’t just try harder, they see any task as a skill that can be developed. Toxic self talk can often rear it’s ugly head when your having a tough day. Unfourtunately, just telling yourself to think better thoughts is not going to be enough. Instead take a step back a look at why you are having the toxic thoughts and devise a strategy you can use to improve upon your negative thoughts. What you think now is less important than your willingness to improve, one step at a time.

For example when you first try to get up early to train you’ll mentally complain and negotiate with yourself about getting out of bed. Instead of complaining about how tired you are, tell yourself that it’s early and your supposed to be tired when you first wake up. Also tell yourself that getting up early is a necessary step on the path towards your success.

Motivation, is an outcome. You can’t control motivation or directly pursue it. What you can control is the series of factors that underpin motivation. Stop waiting for a green light to get started, even if it’s hard, taking action gets you closer to the goal. Understand that doing the right thing in the moment is totally within your control.