This post is also available in: العربية (Arabic)
Contributing writer; Elliot Hasoon.
Motivation is defined here as our reason(s) for acting or behaving in a particular way.
Motivation is (I hope) something we have all experienced. We are often motivated towards aspirations such as achieving a certain health and fitness goal or perhaps a promotion/achievement within our careers. Some believe that certain people are just ‘wired in a different way’ which results in them experiencing greater motivation than others. This blog aims to discuss various common questions about motivation; How important is motivation in successfully achieving fitness goals? Does being motivated have real impact on success in our fitness endeavors, or is success just as likely when relatively unmotivated?
Types of Motivation
The experience of motivation for most of us is rarely constant but comes in flurries and bursts. There will be days where you are extremely motivated to get to the gym and prepare healthy food. You will likely also experience days when your experience is the complete opposite. A large component of feeling motivated comes down to what you are trying to achieve, why you wish to achieve it and whether this reason is largely extrinsically or intrinsically motivated.
If extrinsically motivated, your behaviour and actions are largely based on your desire to obtain a certain reward or outcome. If extrinsically motivated towards a certain outcome, we want something that is immediately tangible. For example, compensation, praise or recognition among a peer group. You might associate most athletes as extrinsically motivated individuals as (within professional sports) they are working towards trophies, accolades and remuneration.
If intrinsically motivated, your behaviour and actions are based on the enjoyment of the challenge. The challenge is undertaken without consideration of external reward. Intrinsic motivation means to face a challenge primarily for a sense of wellbeing, personal progression and/or enjoyment. You might typically associate various activities such as; painting a picture, playing a board game or volunteering for a charity as generally motivated intrinsically. There lacks an element of competition, self-interest or tangible reward.
Understanding Your Own Motivation
Understanding the reason(s) we are doing something can often determine (and define) our success, especially with regard to your fitness. When training to improve your body composition, there are times when these different sources of motivation can conflict and cause an intrinsically motivated individual to neglect an activity due to being given external reward. This is called the ‘over justification effect’ and the role of your coach to identify and avoid.
For example, if you start going to the gym multiple times each week to improve your overall health and ‘feel better’ (subjectively), placing strong emphasis on the way you look or how much you should be lifting is unlikely to be conducive to motivation. However, if you are working out specifically drop 10kg of bodyfat then paying close attention to the scales (among other objective metrics) may be the perfect way to maintain motivation.
Refining and Using Your Motivation
We’re going to give our top-three suggestions to maintain motivation and how this helps us produce the very best results in fitness and body composition.
1. Create an environment that allows you to succeed and reinforces your goal(s).
We are creatures of habit. Many of our daily habits are built up over long periods of time. This is why bad habits are generally hard to break (regardless of how bad they are) and new habits can take significant time to build and reinforce. It’s important to change (and improve) the environment around you where possible in support of your health and fitness goals.
For example, removing all the poor food choices (sweet snacks and ‘occasional but unhealthy’ foods) from your house and weekly shopping trip will ensure that they are not within reach if feeling stressed-out or tired. The habit is not necessarily easy to build as it often requires negotiation with your family (or housemates) but creates a far more conducive environment for success.
2. Find what motivates you and make best use of this.
To quote Simon Sinek; “Finding your why” can be a key to your success. It’s very easy to give up when you have no clear vision but if your reason is important and apparent enough to see on a day-to-day basis, this can help you stay motivated through challenging time periods.
If your reason is to reduce your body weight or body fat (goals which typically require extended periods of delayed gratification) so that you can live longer and spend more time with family, reinforce this ‘why’ clear every time you step foot the in the gym or make the choice to prepare a good meal. Remind yourself that the reason you are doing this is for the greater good of yourself and your family and this should make doing these tough tasks a lot more feasible.
If your ‘why’ is routed properly, you’ll be able to persevere through challenging circumstances and barriers that seem significant or insurmountable.
3. Set short term goals and have a plan.
When our coaches discuss goals with our clients, timelines and short goals are always the priority. What often stops us from maintaining a specific level of effort is feeling overwhelmed by the work (or timeline) involved.
If you went to climb a mountain the first thing you would notice would be how big the mountain is and how long it would likely take to reach the summit. However, if all you understand was where the first base camp was located, simply looking towards one marker point at a time, the mountain seem a lot easier to climb. You may not even realise its size or scale until it was already behind you.
Reducing your body fat by 20kg may seem a huge target to the point of discouraging you from ever starting. You may look instead become apathetic and look instead to acceptance of the situation. However, if you simply look towards the first 3-4kg and set out a new plan at each short-term target, your goal will seem far more attainable. Planning small successes will help you maintain motivation throughout.
Motivation matters and motivation is not innate within us but the product of planning and smart, small steps to reinforce our motivation. We encourage you to implement these steps into your current health and fitness aspirations and note the impact on your successes.
Thank you for reading.
To read a related post, try Kat’s Success Story.