Motivation comes in many forms. What works for one, may not work for another. Understanding how to motivate yourself and to stay motivated is one of the most difficult and important things a person can do for themselves. The psychology of the motivation doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you.
These 7 motivation techniques will help you motivate yourself and others to improve your health and discipline.
1. Goal Setting
Goals are motivating.
The first thing I do with clients is set goals. Goals are important because they make your dreams and wants a reality. To make it real, write it down, with your own hand on real paper (not a computer). Plus, once the reality of what you want it written out, it is much easier to make a plan, or a road map, to reach it. Developing a plan of action is much more effective when you can see the finish.
In order to make a real goal, it must be specific and measurable. This usually entails a number, such as “I want to do 100 push ups”, or “I want to lose 10% body fat.”
It doesn’t matter what it is, but it should be something that a stranger would be able to witness. In other words, a subjective goal such as “I want to be fit”, or “I want to eat less,” is not obvious to an outsider.
After the specific primary goal is established, you should make a few smaller goals that can be used as stepping stones, or rungs on a ladder. Develop these stepping goals so they can be reached and achieved fairly easily AND they bring you closer to your primary goal.
2. Pleasure/ Pain Principle
Motivation in its most basic form comes down to pain verses pleasure. It’s as simple as that. Find out what brings a person pleasure and pain, and to what extent, and you can motivate them to do just about anything. For example, “Jon” finds pain in being overweight, but he finds more pain in exercise. So he does nothing. He finds pleasure in watching TV and eating chips, but he later feels pain in this when he finds he’s gained more weight. Eventually this pain will reach a point where he will be fed up enough to get off the couch and do something about it. Then he will receive pleasure from satisfaction and eventually from his progress.
Keeping the pleasure/pain principle in mind can help you shape your strategy for achieving your goals.
In order for the goals to be compelling and result in pleasure, there must be an appropriate reward. This reward could be tangible or it could be a feeling of respect for yourself. The reward needs to be proportional to the goal and suitable to the fitness lifestyle. An ice cream sundae is not a suitable reward for losing 5% body fat. For example, a client of mine recently hit his major goal and set off to buy himself a new mountain bike.
Journaling is also an effective way to stay on track. Write down your goals, big and small. Then make a note on a daily or weekly basis to track your progress. Remember, write it down to make it real.
This is rewarding to see progress written down, but it is also a good way to get out of a slump. Often when we are feeling down and unhappy we see things as being worse than they really are, if you write them down you will have a objective view.
Journaling is also useful to go back and see what you were doing six months ago. This can help you fine tune your plan of action.
Another suggestion for the journal is to write down why you want to improve your health and fitness. I like to remain fit so I am never limited on what I can do by my fitness level. My skill-level may be the limiting factor, or my bravery, but not my physical conditioning. I also have a plan to live to be 100 years old. But I don’t just want to see that birthday; I want to be fit and well. I don’t want to spend years laying in a bed with tubes poking in me.
Writing down your stepping goals and reviewing from time to time will allow you to see progress more easily and be a reward in itself. You will enjoy your workouts more if you see that you are making progress.
4. Remember the Enjoyment
In my opinion, the single strongest motivating factor to get moving and exercise is the memory of how great it feels afterward. I don’t always want to lift a piece of metal up and down dozens of times. But I know that if I do it I’ll feel great, because 99% of the time that’s been true. So I cling to that memory and bring it out in full force, and really focus on how great it feels to have endorphins coursing through my veins, muscles pumped full of blood, and of course the satisfaction of doing something good for my body. I use this mental image as I exercise. It can be done with anything, not just weight training. Most importantly, write this in your journal to help you remember..
A person is not born with a lot of discipline. In fact, a person is born with none, that’s why the Id is the child. But the Superego, the parent, can teach the Id discipline. Discipline is learned, like anything else in life. It can be strengthened and it can fatigue. Because of the latter, having a plan and developing a habit is important. Don’t leave your fitness up to your discipline – it will falter eventually. Make a schedule of your plan to achieve your goals and stick to it. Making a plan and scheduling it will help establish a pattern or a behavior. The real trick is to do it. Stick to your plan, no matter what. Then before you know it, it won’t take very much thought or effort. It will simply be a part of your lifestyle.
After the first good habit is established, begin working on the next one. Be sure not to move on to the next until the first is solid.
6. Make it Fun
Another important factor in motivation is enjoyment. Find some sort of activity that you enjoy; be it a game like tennis or basketball, a solitary sport like skating, biking or swimming – anything you like. It doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. Skating could even be a reward for a strength training session.
At some point, a person is going to be in a battle with willpower, or self-control. “Should I workout? I know I should, but I don’t want to. I want to relax on the couch. I know I’ll feel better if I workout, but…” I think there’s a battle like this in everyone’s head at some point. Who will win, Id ( the child ) or Superego ( the parent)? It all depends on the discipline established between the two.
I often speak with people who tell me they are great starters. They start a new diet or exercise routine in full force and do really well – for a short period of time, then fizzle out. Many are older and have been in this pattern most of their lives. This basically comes from a lack of discipline and the desire for instant results. This is quite natural in our modern world of instant gratification: food, entertainment, transportation, et cetera. But fat loss and fitness, like fat gain and poor health, cannot be instant. There is a huge portion of the health and fitness industry that is doing very well because of people stuck in this pattern. Don’t feed it.
7. Habits and Patterns
It takes a strong will and a lot of determination to stick to a healthy fat loss program. A person is usually in this situation because their eating and/or exercising habits are poor. For that person to turn all that around requires a great amount of strength, discipline and planning. It’s crazy to think that one can repeat the same old pattern yet expect different results. It doesn’t work that way.
If you want to change your results – Change your pattern.
Knowing how to motivate yourself will give you a great amount of power and control over your life. Being able to start a goal with the confidence to know you can complete it will give you super powers.
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