Again and again people lament about not being able to find the motivation to do the things they want to do, or think they should be doing.
People often say things like, “I want to exercise more, but I’m just not motivated” or “I need to lose 10 pounds but I don’t have any motivation”.
Embedded in those thoughts and statements is the idea that motivation is this enigmatic thing, that it is either quality that resides within a person, or it is some ephemeral entity that visits people and pushes them along.
Well, I am happy to share with you that motivation is neither of these things. Motivation is simply something in your environment that evokes a particular response. For example, a whistling tea-kettle motivates you to turn off the stove. Being hungry (or your stomach growling) motivates you to find something to eat.
What’s great about knowing this is that now you can set-up your environment so that you take action toward your goals! A lot of people who want to lose weight put pictures of models and celebrities in places where they will often see them. I very much caution against this practice! I equally caution against placing your own “before” pictures on the fridge to stop you from reaching for snacks. Don’t put things around your environment that might lead you to criticize yourself, or make you feel like your goals are too big to conquer. That is the opposite of motivation.
Instead, put signals in your environment that remind you of the progress you are making, and that make you feel great about whatever stage in the journey you are at now.
For example, I may not be a 3-hour marathoner now, but that is my goal. So within my line of sight when I wake up in the morning is a collage of race bibs and photos from my best races so far. If I wake up and am having a hard time getting out of bed to go for a training run, that collage reminds me of how far I have already come, from running a 10 minute mile to under 7. That usually lifts my spirits, gets me excited about running, and before I can think anymore I am out of bed and lacing up my trainers. That, is motivation. A signal in my environment saying to me, “you can do it, go on, do it!”
Another common (misguided) practice in motivation is buying or keeping clothes that are too small. If your jeans don’t fit, or your clothes are uncomfortable, go get ones that fit! Buy clothing that makes you feel good, that feels good on you, and that you are not self-conscious about! Respect your body, LOVE your body. A great side-effect of this practice, rather than punishing your size 12 body with size 6 jeans, is that your overall stress level will be lower, because you aren’t constantly uncomfortable or thinking about how you need to lose weight. If you are less stressed, you’ll make better choices, and likely eat healthier, or less, or both. That is motivation!