Motivation is a mystery at times. Sometimes we are feeling it. Other times we want to lay down on the couch. When we aren’t feeling it, we berate ourselves with all kinds of negative self-talk. This makes us feel bad, more than motivating us. So why do we do it? I believe everyone does the best they can at any given time. We make the best of our circumstances and means. How do we make it an upwards spiral of being better every time, having the ability to do more of what we want and reaching certain goals, instead of a downwards spiral into laziness and ill health? A new goal, a new challenge, can present itself at any time. Let’s examine motivation so we can face our challenges more efficiently and most importantly, with more joy.
Motivation is based on memory
Through experiences we come to realize what we want to and don’t want to do again. We move away from the experiences we dislike and focus on what we want to experience. According to a 2013 study, published in the journal Memory, people who focused on positive memories linked to exercise were more likely to exercise again in the future. We can use this to our advantage when dreaming of a future goal. We associate positive emotions with our goal and then behave in ways that we believe will get us to that goal, so that we can experience those delightful feelings.
Think about times that you enjoyed exercising. These can be from childhood or as recent as yesterday. What activity are you thinking of? How did you feel? Why did you feel that way? Is there something specific you like about that activity, or is it more fuzzy and general? Whatever you are feeling is ok. Draw upon the memories and feelings from the past to motivate you towards the future.
Motivation is based on your abilities
If you are bad at something, you’re probably not enjoying it. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re less likely to do it again. If you are good at something, you probably enjoy doing it. More importantly than that is the perception you have of your abilities. If you think you are bad at something, it’s hard to go and do it. At the same time there is no use in lying to yourself, and telling yourself that you are good at something when you aren’t. Going up the hard skiing route the first time you put on ski’s is bound to end up badly.
Take accurate and realistic stock of your capabilities. Then do what you can’t, in order to learn what you can not yet do. Ensure you are taking small enough steps, so that you are sure of success with every step. At the same time balance each step with a hard enough challenge to ensure growth in your abilities.
Motivation comes from within
How many times are we told that we ought to do something because it would be good for us? How often do we resist doing it because we were told to do it? The desire for change, goals and motivations must come from within. It takes time to pauze and reflect upon yourself. Then you eliminate the garbage and bring in the nutrients. Once you take action, you can be proud. It feels good to work on yourself, to try something new, or to move your body. A study of 321 college women done in 2014 concluded that having a positive body image correlated with a desire to exercise more frequently, and focusing on exercise as a tool to loose weight and improve appearance had the effect of lowering the women’s body image. The positive feeling inside translated towards their actions.
Focus on you. Give yourself permission to feel good and to like yourself. Stay clear from environments, like social media, and even friends or family, that bring you down and suck your energy.
Motivation comes from the process
Have you gone for a run, whether at an event or by yourself, and the entire run you could think of nothing else but the finish? I have. Those are bad runs. Every step is a drag, even though it gets you closer to the finish. Why did I ever leave the house? On the other hand, there were runs where I was at the 5k mark before I knew it. At those times the focus was on my environment and my body. How am I feeling? How is my technique? Look at this wonderful environment that the course is taking me through (this is more the case for nature versus the city). There’s something to the saying that it is the journey and not the destination. There will be times when that little voice in your head tells you to stop. If you can master that voice, you can overcome anything that life throws at you.
Whatever your plan of action, feel good about every step of the way. Don’t focus on the end and the feeling you have then. It is in the future, not in the present, and unlikely to last very long. Taking joy in the moment will have you feeling good most of the time, instead of grinding and pushing along the way with a brief joyeous
moment at the end.
Motivation builds on successes
Often times the hardest part is starting. And once we start, it wasn’t all that hard and we keep the momentum going. When creating your plan, or when running towards the finish line of a 5k event, take small enough steps. Every step you complete, is a small win. A win motivates you to go on. It verifies your capabilities. Success is a powerful motivator.
What is the small step you can take right now to get you moving closer to your goal? Do it. Celebrate your success. Go play. Do it again the next day.