This is a pretty loaded question, and the answer is going to be different for everyone reading this. That means I don’t actually know the answer. However, I hope to provide you with some tools and information that can help you process this question.
Before getting started, I want to say that it’s OK to not feel motivated. I love lifting weights, but that doesn’t mean I don’t drag my feet at times, even skipping training sessions occasionally(GASP!). Yes, even someone who makes his living in the fitness industry, and absolutely loves it, doesn’t feel like working out sometimes. Sometimes things are harder than others, but that certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for the task of reaching your goals. It happens, and it’s totally OK.
Alright, let’s get to it.
First, let’s talk about what motivation is. Motivation is any reason you have for doing something. Thus, we do things for many different reasons. There is never only one reason for doing something; motivation is multifaceted.
I brush my teeth because I hate getting fillings, I want my teeth to look pretty, I want my breath to smell good, and, most importantly, I don’t want to end up looking like Jaws.
ALL of these reasons motivate me to keep brushing my teeth. There isn’t one sole thing that is driving me to keep my pearly whites shimmering in the afternoon sun day after day.
The same can be said in regards to any sort of behavior i.e. fitness and nutrition. In the conversation about fitness motivation you often here of two types of motivation: The “rah-rah you can do it!” type and guilt and shame(rah-rah you can’t do it!) type. First, I would like to discuss the latter, shame.
Shame can indeed feel like a prison. Now, saying shame is not a motivator would be false, it certainly can prompt people to do things, for better or for worse. However, as far as getting results in fitness goes, it’s a pretty shitty motivator.
Shame and guilt are very intense motivators. They feel really intense for about 2 weeks, then they fade away, until something else prompts more shame and guilt which can drive more action, for about another 2 weeks. I think this intensity is a big reason why shame and guilt seem like such an obvious force to rely on(as well as a ton of sociological/cultural factors, which could be the discussion of a blog/book all on it’s own).
The reality is that successful, healthy, long term motivation doesn’t look like feeling so shitty all the time that the only way you can keep the shittyness in check is by adhering to your diet. Nor does it look like having a cheerleader hovering over your shoulder all day.
The reality is far less extreme and drastic. In fact, it might seem kind of boring. Folks who achieve their fitness goals in the long term aren’t perpetually feeling like Rocky Balboa. The trick is to consistently move forward and get better bit by bit regardless of how motivated you are feeling. I emphasize the word “feeling” to highlight that feeling motivated and having motivation are different things. As I said earlier, anything that prompts you to do something can be considered motivation, not just the more overt forms(rah-rah and shame). I don’t feel motivated when I brush my teeth, but I do it anyways because of all the aforementioned motivations.
Everyone is going to pull motivation from different places, so I can’t say what will motivate you deep down, but I can tell you that consistently building healthier habits over time and focusing on the process rather than results will bring you success. Focusing on the process looks like celebrating every time you did something well, rather than celebrating results.
Now, results are great..duh. However, even if you are doing everything “right” the rate you achieve results is still pretty unpredictable in the short and long term. Therefore, as an indicator of progress it can be problematic and misleading.
While we can’t predict how fast someone will reach their goals, we know that we all should eat more vegetables. That means that if you ate more veggies this week than you did yesterday, you ought to find someone to give you a high five.
Then continue getting better at eating vegetables and finding random strangers to high five you for your accomplishments.
What drives you to be successful will depend on a number of things that I can’t possibly answer for you, even if I knew you quite well. However, one thing I can recommend is to figure out your why. Why is this goal important to you?
An exercise to help you with this is to write out your goals, prioritize them, and then for each goal, write out EVERY. SINGLE. REASON. WHY you want to achieve that goal, listing at least 5 reasons for each goal.
I know why I brush my teeth, why do you?
I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better. Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, except you don’t have to be in the same city as me.
Ready to take that first step? Just fill out a brief application and you’ll be well on your way!