Nist6dh. Flickr. The Bait. CC2.0
The number one complaint I hear from people regarding fitness is that they don’t have the motivation to consistently workout. It’s even one of my gripes. If only they sold motivation in a bottle. Our goals would be met, our productivity would skyrocket, and our dreams would come true. The world would be…a really boring place. Since we don’t have that cure-all elixir for laziness, we have to do character-building stuff like work through the barriers. The good news is that motivation is something we can influence and strengthen.
First of all, what is motivation? It’s often simplified as an inherent drive that compels us to be awesome, but by definition it’s actually the REASON behind our actions. It comes from the word motive: something that causes a person to act. The distinction that motivation does not exist in a vacuum is an important one. When you realize that motivation has a source you can start working to build it up.
One of the first steps we should take to get motivated is figure out our why for doing something. Our why is the light at the end of the tunnel. Without it, we’re navigating in the dark. Why is what gets us out of bed when we want to hit the snooze. Why is the invisible hand gently guiding us away from the pizza in the break room. Why is that burning desire inside that keeps us going.
To find your why ask yourself why you want a specific goal at least three times. The thing about our whys is that they have to be powerful to get us through the hard times. Wanting to lose weight just because you want to look good is most likely not going to be enough incentive to keep you on track for the long haul.
Here’s how a why conversation might go:
Why do you want to workout? To look good.
Why do you want to look good? (Most people get stuck here.) So that I can feel more confident.
Why do you want to feel more confident? So that I can be comfortable in my own skin and be the person that I feel I am inside.
In this example, working out is a means of freedom for this person to be their true self. That’s more compelling than just wanting to look good.
Maybe you want to be fit to keep up with your kids or so that you can run a marathon. Our whys are deeply personal and unique, and they have to be FOR YOU. Not because your partner thinks you should lose weight or your aunt makes comments about you eating too much. It has to be something that you truly want so that it can carry you through your lazy potato days.
Motivation Is Fleeting, Habits Are Fixed
Even the most dedicated, motivated people don’t feel like giving it their all every day. Understand that you are not always going to feel driven, and there will be plenty of times that you will look for any excuse to not do the thing.
This may seem like a contradiction to what I’ve just said, but we can’t rely on motivation alone to get us in the gym. It’s not always going to be there. Exercising and making healthy food choices has to become a habit, like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. Do you feel like grooming yourself everyday? Probably not, and let’s be honest–there are likely days that you don’t. I am guilty of this too, especially since I work from home lol. But, what happens when we don’t groom? Our scalp might itch or our pits might stink. We feel off, like something isn’t right. Same thing goes for exercising. Once it becomes a habit it’s just something that you need to do to feel complete.
So how do you make it a habit? You consistently do it until it becomes second nature. How long that takes varies from person to person, but expect it to take a least a few months to sink in. To help with your day to day compliance in forming a habit, there are some things you can try.
- Commit. Challenging journeys usually start with a commitment to see it through. If your feelings around a certain goal are wishy-washy, then your results probably will be too. Figure out what you really want and make a conscious decision to do what it takes to obtain it.
- Anticipate growing pains. Some days are going to suck. It’s part of the process. Expect it, accept it, and know that it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does become more automatic.
- Strive for improvement, not perfection. I’ve written before about black and white thinking (see the link above). If you’re a perfectionist then you may be used to abandoning ship the minute something doesn’t go as planned–and that’s a great way to sink vs reaching your destination. Do not expect to be perfect because it’s not going to happen. There will be times that you eat too much or skip workouts, but that does not mean all is lost. If in former times a situation like that completely derailed you for weeks or months, it is especially crucial that you look to improve, not perfect. Bad day? Okay, no biggie. Analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and get back on track the next day. Look for the tiny wins in every situation; they’re what gets you the gold in the end.
- You Don’t Have To. You get to. Stop thinking of exercise as something that’s torture. You might want to adjust your attitude if you constantly say, “Ugh, I have to workout.” That line of thinking is not conducive to sustainability, seeing as how we tend to not stick too long to things we hate. Being able to exercise, get strong, and have the freedom of mobility is a privilege that not everyone is afforded. Find something that you enjoy doing and embrace it.
- Get structure and accountability. We know ourselves and the ways we try to weasel out of doing things. Take preventative measures and find a support system. It may be getting a workout buddy or a personal trainer or posting your intentions on social media. When we’re being held accountable by an outside force–whether it’s another person or the all-seeing eye of the Internet–we’re much more likely to follow through.
Motivation is mental. If you struggle with reaching a goal that you truly want, it’s time to introspect and figure out how you can adjust your mindset. Start by identifying why your goal is important to you and then put a plan in place to make sure you’re taking the proper actions more days than not.