What does MOTIVATION mean to you? Do you have it? Do you lack it? Do you want it? (Yes, probably!) What is it exactly, and why do some people seem to have it oozing from every pore? Just in case you want the definition, here it is:
The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
I’ll bet 99% of the population wants to be healthy. I mean, who doesn’t want to live longer while feeling better? The desire is there for the majority of the planet. But what makes one person bolt out of bed at 5 a.m. to jog before the sun’s up, while another presses snooze and says, “I’ll start on Monday”? Why does a co-worker pack her perfect bento box every day, while you rely on the vending machine? Why do some people do exactly what they say they’re going to, while others have a constant silent dialogue with themselves that goes a little like this: “missing the gym today won’t matter, I’ll just go tomorrow for longer,” or, “I’m so stressed, I deserve chocolate,” or, “I’m going to start losing weight after my birthday”!?
Before you know it, variations of the same excuses crop up day after day, week after week, until disappointment and negative self-talk become the norm, and no progress is made. I’m here to tell you: you do not have to live this way! Life’s too short to beat yourself up! Most of us bully ourselves in ways we’d never dream of bullying another human being. Here’s where we say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! It’s time to change your thoughts in order to change your mind, habits and body. It might be tough, but it’ll be worth it. Creating new habits takes structure. None of us are going to wake up tomorrow, or even in one week, an entirely new person with brand new habits. But small and relentless commitments every day will change you and help you become all you were destined to be.
To get started, it helps to know the two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic is when something is so completely natural, it’s simply a part of who you are. It’s inherent.
Extrinsic is the opposite; something that’s not entirely natural or a part of you. When someone is intrinsically motivated to exercise, for example, it’s second nature. The habit is so ingrained that the act of not doing it regularly feels depressing and foreign.
You can certainly be extrinsically motivated to hit the gym every day, but it means the fire to do so doesn’t come from within. You might be in a sport that requires it. Perhaps your doctor demanded you get on a waking routine, or you get to wear cute tank tops and chat with friends if you strap on the sneakers for a girly power walk. Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, but it doesn’t always last. We’re after intrinsic motivation, or at the very least, habits that aren’t torture!
For me, exercise and work are 100% intrinsic. Like, I have to shut it down. I crave both, get lost in both and have to force myself to stop sometimes because it’s so natural and enjoyable. It’s where I’m in “the zone.” Maybe you feel that way about parenting, drawing, reading or cooking? Think about something in your life where you’re intrinsically motivated and meditate on that feeling a bit. It might be your form of expression, a creative outlet, or a sense of satisfaction in working hard at something. Recognize how that feels in one area of your life, because we are going to harness it and make it a habit for your health!
They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. Incorporate these ten tips and you’re sure to get there!
1. It’s not about Vanity
Fitness can’t only be about vanity. We have to dig a bit deeper than the surface to make things last. A goal of, “looking good for a wedding,” never lasts. It might get you to go to the gym every day for 3 weeks, but what happens after you take that bridesmaid dress off? Where does the motivation come from then?
You’ve got to find 3 specific reasons why exercising most days of the week is important to you. Let me help you with a few: cancer prevention, living with less pain, sleeping better, decreasing depression, more energy, curing your diabetes, endurance to play with your children. Those are just a few “big” reasons. Do you see the difference? Stating, “I will run 4 days per week to cut my risk of cancer,” is a lot more powerful than saying, “I will work out to lose 5 pounds.” The difference here is in the magnitude. Failing to lose 5 pounds isn’t a huge consequence, but failing to have energy to play with your kids, or failing to do all you can to prevent a serious disease, has real impact. Even if you’re too young to imagine a life where you don’t feel energetic, it helps to visualize the things you want to prevent. The steps you make today affect your future self!
2. Commit Out Loud
We make and break promises to ourselves multiple times per day, but as soon as there’s something on the line—money, your credibility, your loyalty—well, that’s another story. Some people go so far as to blog an entire experience just for the public accountability. Others simply sign a contract with a friend, promise to put $10 into a jar for every kickboxing class they miss, or start a closed Facebook page with a group of friends. The point is, people let themselves down often, but most don’t want to let someone else down. Ideally, you’ll buy a class pass with 3 or more friends, reserve a bike in advance so you can’t back out, or have a scheduled power walk at 5:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday to hold you to your routine. Ideally, you won’t just tell your BFF your goals! Tell a few more people, especially those who give you tough love when you need it.
3. Give Yourself a Present
Ok – it doesn’t have to be diamonds or anything, but scientists have discovered that you can take a string of habits that end in reward to create a positive habit. For example:
- Set workout gear out the night before
- Set alarm for 6:00 a.m. to hit the gym
- Treat yourself to a green juice post workout
These are three separate things that end in something joyful. Even if you despise mornings AND exercise, your brain will begin to associate the pleasure (green juice) with the habit of working out.
- DVR your favorite reality t.v. show
- Set your jump rope and dumbbells out before work
- Come home to an at-home gym party while watching your show (which you agree to only watch if you are moving!)
Charles Duhigg, author of, The Power of Habit, says that habits are made up of three things: triggers, routines and rewards. And those CAN turn into intrinsic motivation! Something as small as your morning coffee can serve as a reward. A trigger can be your alarm and getting up. The routine is having your coffee pot set so that all you have to do is press “brew.” And the reward is sipping on that warm mug of happiness that gets your eyes aflutter and your day off to a great start. Don’t think you need to reward yourself with a mani/pedi every time you go to the gym. That’ll get expensive! Just reward yourself with something you love to do…but only after the workout is complete. Maybe it’s calling your bestie, reading a book, or making a smoothie.
4. Make a Plan
You must have measurable goals or you won’t know how to get where you want to go, and you won’t know what it feels like when you arrive. Saying, “I’m going to exercise more,” is failure waiting to happen. More than what?! Saying, “I will do four 30-minute POP Pilates videos on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday,” is completely measurable. You either do it or you don’t. People who say, “I want to lose 5 pounds,” are doomed to fail. What’s the plan? Do you want to lose it in 3 weeks or 3 years? A better plan is saying, “I will lose 5 pounds by June 2nd by logging my food daily and jogging 2 miles Monday-Friday.” Once you know the plan, write it down and put it where you can see it.
Here’s a 4 min video to get you started!
The better you look and feel, the more motivated you’ll be. It’s surprising what people will spend on a dress they’ll only wear once, but they won’t invest in cute clothes they’ll exercise in multiple times per week. When you invest in exercise attire, it reinforces health and fitness as part of your identity. It becomes part of who you are, decreasing the excuses. Allow yourself to be an athlete. Think of yourself as someone who works out and it will define you as such. My fave POPFLEX outfit of the moment…
6. Feelings Journal
Write down how you feel after your workout. You might not think it carries a lot of weight, but putting pen to paper really does work! If you notice an elevated mood, a flatter tummy in the morning and a lack of rage at the office, you need to write it down! If you’re ever tempted to skip a workout, whip out your journal and sneak a peek at the positive things you’ve written down.
7. Measure it
The scale can be mean and unforgiving (and misleading!), but photos and measurements don’t lie. Progress can keep you motivated like nothing else. Sometimes the before photo alone is enough of a reality check. But a tape measure and a few snapshots tell a truer story than the scale, so be sure to get the pix and measurements for your ‘evidence file’ on day one of your journey.
8. Try new Things
Just because you hate yoga and cycling doesn’t mean you hate all exercise. It’s easy to lump those negative feelings together and assume they blanket every exercise program on the planet. But they don’t. There’s something out there for everyone. It may take kissing a few frogs to find your Prince Charming, but eventually you will find that class, or that instructor or that walking trail that leaves you excited, invigorated and craving more. Don’t stop until you’ve found it! And when you do, commit to it at least 3 days per week.
9. Explore all Sides of Health
Working out isn’t the only habit we’re after here. To be well-rounded, you really need to focus on your nutrition, sleep, stress, hydration and happiness. Finding motivation in other areas helps the exercise motivation because you begin to feel accomplished across the board. Make the same commitments with food by logging meals into an app so that you become aware of what you’re putting into your body. Commit to trying healthier recipes or start buying organic. Make a contract to go to sleep by 10 p.m. each night. Have a consequence for not going to sleep when you promised. Fill up four-20-ounce water bottles the night before and vow to drink them all the next day.
10. Create your Vision
Seeing is believing. It really is! Some of the most successful people in the world set their intentions daily, or weekly. They create Pinterest boards, vision boards or they meditate. Some simply express gratitude in the morning and vocalize 5 things they’re going to accomplish that day before their feet hit the floor. The mind is a powerful ally, so create the health, the look and the fitness you hope to achieve, and paint it colorfully in your mind. Better yet, go a step further and write it, draw it or save it on your computer.
Let me know in the comments below if you struggle with motivation and which of these tips you’re going to try first. I’d love to hear if your habits improve in the next 21 days! Don’t make excuses! The worst that can happen is that nothing changes. The best that can happen is you become intrinsically motivated to do something that will 100% improve your life!