The Reality of Motivation
One of my readers asked me to write about ways to get motivated and stay motivated. Relate to anyone out there? Motivation comes and goes. Sometimes we feel extremely motivated and sometimes it’s tough to get ourselves to workout. Sometimes we feel extremely motivated and then it snows, we go on vacation or we get sick. Motivation is determined by a large number of variables. It not only incorporates thoughts, feelings and emotions interacting with our behaviors, but also varies based on environmental changes.
I hope we can recognize that some things are within our control and some things just aren’t. This post is going to focus on what we have control over. Before we dive deeper, I’d like to honor those things that we do not have control over. For example, you get sick. This isn’t something within your control. But what is within your control?
Reaction A: “Here we go again, I just got into a workout habit and now I get sick. I’m never going to be able to lose this weight. It’s just not fair.”
Reaction B: “Maybe this is a sign that I’ve been running too hard. Maybe I should use this time on the couch to journal, meditate or practice another self-care technique that I have been meaning to try. Once I’m feeling better, I’ll start back up with more confidence.”
When we get wrapped up in reaction A, we beat ourselves down and are less likely to pick back up with confidence. The negative self-talk creates doubt that can be difficult to overcome. The key in reaction B is a positive slant to what is happening. There’s usually a way to make a difficult situation better simply by controlling our thoughts. Simply believing that we can control our thoughts is empowering in and of itself.
10 Tips for Motivation
Using my wellness experience and research on motivation, I’ve identified 10 subtle but powerful tips to enhance your motivation. (The tips below are using exercise as the behavior, but you can replace the behavior with anything that you are currently working on).
Give yourself grace.
When something comes up and you just can’t fit in your workout, practice acceptance. The more you engage in frustration towards yourself or your life circumstance, the more you are going to associate negativity and stress around exercise. (This can lead to feeling like you’ll never be able to hit your goals). Notice those negative thoughts and then let them slip away. You’ll be more likely to engage in that behavior the next day because you were kind to yourself.
H-rewards are more superficial in nature and are things like weight loss, looking good and feeling accepted by others. These are short-lived and can leave us feeling frustrated. In contrast, e-rewards are things like a sense of meaning, purpose, and identifying as a healthy person. When we focus on e-rewards, the part of our brain that makes us happier is stimulated. Since we are happier, we are more like to engage in exercise long-term.
When you aren’t feeling motivated, take a moment to think about it. “Why don’t I feel like working out today?” Explore your reasons AND avoid labeling yourself as “bad” or “lazy”. Just simply noticing can give you a lot of information that may help you get past this barrier. Maybe you don’t want to be alone and you could ask a friend to go on a walk with you. Maybe you don’t feel like doing cardio because your stomach hurts but Yoga would be a nice option. Whatever your story is, be aware so that you can plan for overcoming future barriers.
Avoid “I should” and embrace “I want to”.
If you’re constantly using phrases like “I should go workout today” or “I should be lifting more,” you are giving yourself a chore. Your dialogue sounds like a parent telling you what you should be doing. Engaging in dialogue that is surrounded by personal choice just feels better. “I want to get a good sweat today” tells a different story and encourages sustainable physical activity. To listen to more about self-motivation, check out this TedTalk.
Change who you are by faking it until you become it. Tell yourself and everyone around you that you work out now. Tell your Mom you started indoor cycling because you feel empowered doing it. After a workout, write down all of the positive things that happened (i.e. you ran into an old friend, the instructor complimented you, you completed more push-ups today). Highlight all of the good things and your focus will be flooded with positive reinforcement. Let is flourish inside you until it becomes who you are.
Increase self-efficacy by crushing small goals.
This is a concept that is part of SMART goals. The “A” stands for attainable. Goals have to be attainable so that you can find success and continue to push yourself further. When goals are out of reach, we lose motivation due to frustration or feelings of hopelessness. But, when we reach a goal within our abilities, we feel successful. This increases our self-efficacy or our belief that we are able to conquer what we set out to do.
Make it mean something to you.
This is called intrinsic motivation. When our intrinsic motivation is high, we are more likely to stay active. We need to think about how movement adds value to our identity, life’s purpose, and overall meaning. This is seen as much more valuable than extrinsic rewards because you are owning the behavior. This is also part of self-determination theory as explained in this article.
Process goals are what you do and outcomes goals are what happens. We have much more control over our actions than the outcome. Working out 3 times a week is much easier to obtain than losing 5 pounds in 2 weeks. If we hit the frequency of exercise, we can feel successful, thereby enhancing our motivation. The weight loss may or may not happen, but that is negligible because it wasn’t part of our goal in the first place.
Be a part of something bigger than yourself. Getting involved in a group activity increases your social wellness, which ultimately increases your motivation. You won’t want to miss a workout because you will miss time with your friends.
Make it fun-
If you dread your workout, you might want to find a different activity, place or social group. I promise if you use the above tips, there are plenty of ways that you can begin to look forward to a workout. 🙂
As you can see, a lot of motivation comes from our thoughts. Your thoughts and mental wellness are crucial in order to live a healthy lifestyle, and changing your mindset can make a huge difference. I’d love to hear what works for you, so please comment below!
all the positive vibes,