Motivation: What is it really?

Motivation is an entire topic consisting of theories and philosophies. It's not just as simple as "I'm motivated to lose weight today".

The basic principle of motivation is that we as humans seek pleasure over pain, and it is that desire to achieve pleasure which motivates us. Now, this gets a bit confusing when you see people in pain at the gym, but their motivator could very much be that the pain of training, produces the pleasure of having the body the desire. But further to that, the pleasure may not come from the body per se, but it could come from something like the comments that people make about their body. 

Therefore, comments or the desired body produces a greater pleasure than the pain of training. So when we look at motivation, you need to be weighing up pleasure and pain in accordance to what you want to achieve, and why you want to achieve it.

Here is another example.  Let's say a mum of 2 kids wants to lose 10kg because when she is too self conscious to get undressed in front of her husband. We have to look closer, is the goal to lose weight? Or is the goal to increase confidence? Will weight loss increase her confidence, or will she simply find something else to feel anxious about. Therefore, what does this woman really need?  Does she really need to feel "fat" in front of lycra clad women in the gym, beating herself up further?  Will this ultimately be the new pain that demotivates her?  Would life coaching produce the greater pleasure for this lady?

Will this motivate her? It might. But then again, it might not. And this is the crux of motivation. Its not the what I want to achieve that motivates. It's the what will it mean to me, that keeps us going. I would like to be 65kg. But the pain of getting there far outweighs the pleasure of being there. And I know, once I get there, the pain of maintaining it, far outweighs the pleasure of maintaining 71kg (my current weight). So for me, my motivation to stick to the required training and dieting is pretty low. The pain of not achieving isn't very high either. So, I might not want to be 71kg, but the pleasure of being here seems to be outweighing the pain of it. So I am not motivated to change. 

However, I would like to be 65kg by the end of the month to get some photos done. A very short term goal, which will provide pleasure, so the pain of achieving it is a little less than the pleasure I will get out of it. So I am more likely to stick to hard training and dieting to get there.

Extrinsic motivation is the motivation we have regarding the OUTCOME of a task. I am motivated to work, because I love my work (intrinsic) is a lot different to, I am motivated to work because the money helps me to buy the things I want (extrinsic).

So, if you're feeling unmotivated about your health and fitness right now, the first thing I want you to do is breathe, relax and perhaps go and eat a piece of cake or have a glass of wine. Read about the theory of motivation in wikipedia. Then, sit down with a pen and paper and start unraveling your goal, and the reason why you want to achieve the goal.

Once you have your reasons, find the best course of action, and you may need to talk to someone about what that might be.  Then it's all about keeping an eye on the pleasure and ignoring any small pain or discomfort.

Here's a great wee tool for you


Then ask  4 questions (divide a piece of paper into 4 squares/grids)

  1. What pleasure will I get by taking action? (eg, feel confident, proud, sexy, etc)
  2. What pleasure will I get by not taking action? (eg, sleeping in, eating lots of treats etc)
  3. What pain will I get by taking action? (eg, battling with self to get to the gym etc)
  4. What pain will I get by NOT taking action? (keep feeling fat, daily groans in the mirror trying to work out what to wear etc)

Is the pain of getting stuck in really that bad after all? 

You won't find your motivation in silly quotes. You won't find your motivation in someone elses' goals. But trust me. You will find your motivation, and when you do, you will feel amazing. And motivated!