I’m a very firm believer that worrying too much about motivation is detrimental to your health. Okay, not really, but I do happen to think that it is one of the biggest limiting factors for most people when trying to achieve their health and wellness goals.
People end up focusing too much on motivation and not enough on more important things like consistency, preparation, planning, and progress. Instead of committing to specific days and times to exercise or prepare meals, they just assume motivation will kick in and help them do it.
Well, it doesn’t really work that way.
Motivation Is Fleeting. It Comes and Goes Very Quickly.
It can give you that quick burst of mojo that you may need every so often to help push you but to rely on it consistently would not only be exhausting, it would reduce its effectiveness.
Think of it like a world-class, 100-meter sprinter. They specialize in that short distance and maximize their results within that time frame. However, send that sprinter out to run an Ultra-Marathon and the results will be much different.
This is how life works. You sometimes have short bursts in which motivation can be used, but overall your life course is more like a marathon. You’ve got to pace yourself for the long haul.
Lack of motivation usually stems from a lack of willpower (I’ll touch on how you can build more willpower later). All day long we wear ourselves out making various decisions, avoiding certain tasks or obligations, trying not to eat certain foods, arguing with someone, and simply just making everyday decisions.
However, I do think that motivation has its place in helping you to achieve various goals and other aspirations, especially those related to health and wellness. When your jam comes on, you might be inspired to push out one more rep or run just a little further. An inspiring video might motivate you to take action, and possibly fill you with the belief that you can accomplish this task too.
How You Can Step Up Your Motivation Game
Forget carrots and sticks, the widely used catch phrase suggesting people are motivated by the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
I love this statement so much because it is spot-on. When it comes to motivation, there are typically only two things that will get your juices flowing:
A good example of motivation through inspiration can be seen in Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of instant photography. His daughter one day asked him why it took so long to develop pictures; she wanted to see a photo of herself right NOW. This inspired Dr. Land to put the picture development process right inside of the film.
Through desperation, self-improvement guru Tony Robbins found his motivation. Tony was living in a 400-square-foot apartment in Venice with barely enough money to get by and washing dishes in his bathtub. This pain and uncomfortable lifestyle eventually got to him and pushed him into the person he is today.
Social psychologist Tory Higgins tells us that the true essence of human motivation is found in the desire to be effective. Being effective is what makes us come alive, and according to him and his research, there are three important factors when it comes to feeling ALIVE!
- Value effectiveness: Achieving a particular result such as feeding yourself when hungry.
- Control effectiveness: The ability to have influence over what happens; the need to control situations and events.
- Truth effectiveness: Seeking what we believe to be correct, legitimate, and genuine. To want to know what is real. You can see this one around the globe as people are willing to risk pain, and even death, for what they believe to be true.
So here is where I have some exciting news, you already tapped into some motivation for yourself by reading this article. You’re reading it because you want to achieve specific results in your health and fitness (value). You’re reading it because you want to have a say over your health and be in control of how healthy of a person you are or can become (control). You’re reading it to find answers to questions you had about being healthier, understanding how to work out, and learn the truth about eating right and building healthy habits (truth).
What’s Your Motivation Style?
There are typically two ways in which all of us use motivation and determining which style you use most often can help you towards achieving any goal that you desire (in the case of this guide your health and wellness goals).
AWAY FROM MOTIVATION
Your alarm goes off in the morning and you think to yourself, “No way, I just want to sleep some more.” So you hit the snooze and then do so yourself. Your alarm goes off again in the next few minutes and you think to yourself, “Aww man, my bed is so warm and cozy, comfortable; I just want to stay here a little longer.” But your brain starts showing you pictures of you rushing to get ready, being late for work, and your boss yelling at you. Eventually, this becomes too much for you, so you decide to get up and start the day. What got you to get out of bed are scenarios that you want to get AWAY from.
- Health example: Most people think of getting healthier as losing weight. This is an away from motivation style.
- Power words or thoughts typically associated with away motivation styles include: Avoid, ease, relax, and getaway.
You’re on vacation at a posh resort and as you wake up one morning, you immediately start to brainstorm the adventures you can have today. No work, family, or other obligations—it’s just you, this vacation, and real good time. All of the opportunities rush across your mind, and you start to see vivid and detailed pictures of all you can accomplish today. The question of whether or not to actually get up has never crossed your mind. What got you out of bed is was the ability to move TOWARDS all of the rewards that come with getting up today.
- Health example: As opposed to losing weight you think of the health and fitness you’ll be gaining.
- Power words or thoughts typically associated with motivation styles include: Attain, gain, achieve, and reward.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Justin, thanks for the info, but I definitely use both strategies depending on different situations in my life.”
You know what? I do too. What gets me going every day seems to vary pretty often, but the majority of the time I come to find that I use a towards motivation strategy. The rewards that are associated with me doing what I need to do outweigh any discomfort and pain that may be associated with my efforts.
In short, all of us are either trying to move away from biological or physical pain, discomfort, and stress; or we are moving towards pleasure, comfort, and relaxation.
There is no right or wrong way to get motivated, you can’t really go wrong with an away from or towards strategy. But in my experience, I have found that those who relate health and wellness with towards motivation find it much easier to stay psyched to keep going throughout their journey.
When You Think About The Process of Improving Your Health Do You Envision…
Yourself huffing and puffing, eating chicken and broccoli, and generally being miserable the entire time? Do you consider it a temporary thing, something that you only have to do for a short time, and then you’re done with it? Is it this long, hard, and difficult process that you already believe will not be fun?
If that’s where your heads are at right now, that’s okay, but won’t it be pretty damn hard to get motivated if that’s what you associate with being a healthy individual?
I want you to brainstorm some ways for making this process more fun and enjoyable for yourself.
- Workout buddy
- Awesome music playlist for workouts or preparing meals
- Watching inspirational videos
- Reading success stories
- Looking over workout logs, body measurements, or photos to see your progress
- What benefits will you receive from this pursuit? More energy? The ability to play with your kids? The confidence to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do?
Grab a notebook and answer the following question: What are some ways you can make this journey fun as heck for yourself?
Your Full Proof Plan For Motivation
So here it is ladies and gents; what do you do when you get bored? When the work isn’t easy? When does it feel like nobody is paying attention or you’re not getting the results you want?
How can you stay motivated . . . ah hmm . . . disciplined enough to keep going forward?
STEP 1: TAP INTO YOUR EMOTIONS
You’re going to need a notebook to answer some of the questions below. If you don’t have one with you go grab one. I’ll wait 🙂
“. . . Psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer interviewed over 600 managers and found a shocking result. 95 percent of managers misunderstood what motivates employees. They thought what motivates employees was making money, getting raises, and bonuses. In fact, after analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, they discovered that the number one work motivator was emotion, not a financial incentive: it’s the feeling of making progress every day toward a meaningful goal. In fact, Dan Pink found that actually the exact opposite of this is true . . . ” (quoted from lifehack)
“The larger the monetary reward, the poorer the performance—money doesn’t motivate us, at all, instead emotions do.”
To tap into the emotional motivation you’ll need to do three things:
1. Discover autonomy
We all have the desire to direct our own lives. Take a brief moment to get clear on how becoming a healthier individual, plus establishing exercise and nutritional habits, will give you the ability to do so.
2. Become a master
We all want to get better at stuff, to continually be improving, and see our progress. Take a moment now to think about a few things that you want to get better at (ex: father, mother, lover, friend, entrepreneur, person, basketball player, etc.). How will becoming a healthier person help you to master those or other roles in your life?
3. Discover why you’re doing this
We all want to feel like we are making a dent in this universe, serving a greater purpose than just ourselves. How will establishing healthy exercise and nutritional habits help you to create that dent
STEP 2: MEASURE PROGRESS AND ENJOY THE PROCESS
In her book, The Progress Principle, author Teresa Amabile discusses how we just want to see progress towards our goals, and that the actual achievement of them is often less rewarding. Small wins that we can experience each day release dopamine in our brains, which helps to stimulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
But the progress you make has to be meaningful to you.
“. . . when we talk about meaningful work, we do not necessarily mean lofty goals like curing cancer, only that the work be of value to the person doing it. In fact, meaningful work can be as ordinary as providing customers with a useful service or a quality product. But for the progress principle to take effect, the work must be meaningful in some way to the person . . .”
Teresa suggests blocking out a minimum of twenty minutes each day to making progress towards something meaningful to you. The first thing in the morning is an ideal time to do so in order to avoid your willpower being depleted through various activities during the day.
Personal setbacks are one of the biggest obstacles you will face as you strive for progress. It has been shown that setbacks actually have a 2-3 times stronger effect on us than positive effects.
“. . . setbacks have a negative effect on inner work life that’s two to three times stronger than the positive effect of progress. When we checked into whether other researchers had found something similar, we learned that it’s a general psychological effect; “bad is stronger than good.” The reason could be evolutionary. Maybe we pay more attention to negatives and are more affected by them, out of self-preservation. So, because positive inner work life is so important for top performance, leaders should do whatever they can to root out negative forces. . .”
And this bad is stronger than the good effect is even seen in our personal relationships.
“. . . the implication for all of us in long-term relationships is both instructive and daunting: If you have a bad interaction with your partner, following up with a positive one (or apparently two, three or four) won’t be enough to dig out of that hole. Average five or more and you might stay in his or her good graces. . .” –HBR.org
It’s going to be impossible to avoid setbacks, but striving for small wins each day, instead of dramatic changes, makes it much more likely for you to avoid some of the mistakes that could lead to this setback effect.
Making progress isn’t enough; you have to measure it as well.
To measure your forward progress, you could make lists of past experiences or accomplishments in which you had to overcome obstacles; take body measurements to track the fitness goals you are striving for; write down workouts to see if you are getting stronger or faster as you progress; keep a log of ways in which you were able to contribute positively at work or make dents in an ongoing project; keep a journal that details the progress you’ve made each day by writing just three good things that happened to you based on the changes you are making in your life.
Remember there are tons of ways to measure progress. Ask yourself often if you are feeling more energized, happier, more confident? Are your pants loose, do you feel physically stronger, mentally stronger? Are your relationships improving? Are you eager to try new things?
Big tip: Remember to enjoy the process. Far too often we get wrapped up in the results only and lose sight of how much fun, exciting, and personal growth the journey can bring.
We only see success as events that can either be achieved and accomplished or not. James Clear writes as a wonderful example of this:
- Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
- Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
- Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”
Success is not a single event; it is a commitment to the process that truly defines success. So if you really want to see results, you have to fall in love with the process.
If you want to get into shape losing 20 pounds is great, but you have to fall in love with eating healthy foods and exercising consistently. This same philosophy extends beyond health and wellness; it moves into all areas of your life. If you want to publish a book, you have to fall in love with the writing process; if starting a business, then you need to fall in love with working in it and marketing it. You get the idea!
How can you fall in love with the process of healthy living? Outside workouts, in groups, music while you cook, dance classes, what will do it for you??? Write your thoughts in your motivation guidebook.
Final Steps In Motivation Mastery
This stuff takes a little elbow grease. You’re not going to wake up one day, and all of the sudden, you’ll be the most motivated person in the world. These things take time, practice and consistent effort; just like reclaiming your health. The last thing I want you to do in order to find a little more mojo for yourself is this:
Think, think, think
Think of something you know would be very valuable to you (like exercising regularly), but you have a really hard time getting around to doing it. Write it below.
Ask, ask, ask
Ask yourself if you have any objections to actually performing or carrying out the task. Write them in your motivation workbook.
Results, rewards, and consequences
Think about the end result of accomplishing this task; what are the positive benefits for you and the people closest to you in your life? What are all the ways you, and they, will gain from this? What are some possible consequences of not carrying out this task (short-term and long-term)?
Consider the process of achieving this task. What does it take; what behaviors do you need to develop in order to be successful? Picture yourself doing performing these tasks and a high level. Picture yourself enjoying the process and falling in love with the work. Write some notes on how this feels below.
Keep it up
Practice daily, and whenever you need a big bolt of juice to get you going again, refer back to the notes you’ve made here. You may also consider carrying around your answers to these questions so that they are very easy to refer to.
Congrats!! You’re well on your way to being more motivated. But remember, you have to participate. Trying these techniques for a day or two, maybe even a week, won’t necessarily help you achieve the results you desire. You have to use your efforts to consistently practice.
What would have happened if when you fell down the first time you were learning to walk you simply said ahhhh F*ck it, I can’t do this, it’s just too hard?