Have you ever joined a gym or bought the latest exercise video, only to lose motivation and quit altogether? If you’re like most folks, you know what I mean. Your intentions are good, but the fiery motivation that gets you going eventually fizzles and you find yourself right back where you started – or worse. So what is the secret to lasting motivation? Can you really change your lifestyle habits and become healthier for good?
The answer is YES. But first, you’ve got to get rid of what I call your “motivation killers.” Break these bad habits, and you’ll give new life to your health and fitness goals.
“There is a spiritual and mental element to health and fitness goals that is so important,” says fitness guru Donna Richardson Joyner, author of Witness to Fitness: Pumped Up! Powered Up! All things are Possible!.” “Taking care of your body is an act of gratitude for the divine gift of good health. When you change your thinking, you increase your chances for success.”
Psychologists note that a key to changing your thinking is making sure your motivation is solid. Your motivation is your “why” for going after the goal – and it needs to come from the inside out. Extrinsic motivation can be enticing, but it does not hold the sort of meaning that strengthens your perseverance. For example, you could motivate yourself to lose 20 pounds so that you look good for your upcoming high school reunion. But what happens after that? Intrinsic motivation is more meaningful. For example, “I finally want to experience the potential I know I am capable of,” or “I want to live long and see my grandchildren graduate from college” are intrinsic motivations for better health. It is OK to have some extrinsic motivators, but if all of your motivation is extrinsic, you are more likely to give up when the journey to your goal becomes tough. Just as dangerous as not finding a strong enough “why” is killing your motivation through some common bad habits.
Motivation killers: Are you guilty of one of these?
Motivation Killer #1: Comparing “up”
When you constantly compare your body to those whom you perceive as more healthy or attractive or disciplined, you can dampen your motivation and become discouraged. It is OK to notice those around you, but do so in a balanced way. Don’t just notice those who have it all together – notice the ones who are struggling, too. By doing so, you realize you are not alone in your struggle. And when you compare yourself with someone who is doing better, ask empowering questions, such as, “What is she doing that helps her stay on track?” and “How does he stay away from those chocolate chip cookies?”
Solution: Instead of envy, educate yourself and learn from those who’ve “been there, done that.”
Motivation Killer #2: Too much ambition!
I know, it sounds almost un-American to tell you to curb your ambition. But too much ambition can be counterproductive. Have you ever started the New Year with a list of resolutions that goes something like this: exercise one hour per day, no soft drinks, drink 8 glasses of water per day, go to bed by 9 pm and no mid-afternoon runs to the vending machine for a pack of Twinkies! By Day 3, you’re failing miserably.
Solution: Choose one goal and move toward it with laser focus. After 21 days of focus, add another goal. Repeat this cycle until you reach all of your goals. Lifestyle changes happen incrementally, not overnight.
Motivation Killer #3: No Fun!
By going it alone or forcing yourself to do activities you truly don’t like, you sap your own motivation. Team up with a buddy, take a dance class or join a sports league. Make your exercise ritual a social endeavor and it will be more fun. Bonus: Research shows positive emotions generated by having fun actually help you persevere.
Solution: Stop thinking of exercise as a chore, and find a way to make it fun.
What are your motivation killers? Can you identify yourself in these scenarios? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!