Chances are you already know that getting fit and eating healthy might just be the best decisions you’ll ever make – that you’ll likely live longer and feel a whole lot better. But getting there can be tough. Maybe you’ve tried a couple of times, struck out on a new routine, only to wake one morning and all your get up and go has got up and gone.
Whatever we want to achieve, motivation is key.
What gets in the way?
OK, you want to get a bit healthier – want to do more and maybe eat a bit less. What’s stopping you? When the alarm kicks off at six, most of us can think of a bunch of reasons to roll over and reach for the covers – busy day at work, its miles to the gym, I’m too tired, I’m just not the sporty type…
Truth is many of us want to want to exercise – but when the crunch comes, motivation fails. What’s going wrong? Why is getting going so much harder for some than others?
Ins and outs – intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
Not all motivation is the same. Researchers reckon there are two main kinds of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic – and they weren’t born equal.
This comes from outside. It’s carrot and stick stuff – if I exercise, I’ll look better. If I don’t, I’ll get fat. If your motivation is extrinsic, chances are you’re not exercising because you want to exercise, you’re doing it because you want something it’ll give you. You want to look buff, or fit a dress, or get some ripped abs. Extrinsic motivation has its place. It can give you a nudge, remind you of your goals. Trouble is, it’s unreliable. If change doesn’t come quick – if your abs aren’t hard as armour in a week, it’s easy to go off the boil.
It’s is a different beast. It comes from within. Chances are that yes, if you exercise, you’ll look a little leaner, drop a bit of droop. But that’s not your main motive. With intrinsic motivation you’re more likely to exercise because it feels good, because it busts your stress, or gets you in the zone – it’s the stuff intrinsic to the exercise that gets you going. And the evidence is that this kind of inner motivation is a keeper.
Let’s say you’ve decided to get healthy. You’ve wound your inner spring and you’re ready to make some moves. Great. But motivation won’t get you there by itself. Motivation needs management. No matter how passionate you are, if you haven’t got clear, achievable goals, your motivation will melt away.
The boffins in business suits have a thing they call goal setting motivation theory. Although it was cooked up as a way of understanding what motivates employees, there’s loads to learn about getting healthy and losing weight.
The boffins reckon that the best goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). SMARTs have been around a while in corporate life, but they can be just as effective in your personal life.
Be as clear as you can about what you want to achieve. Write it down. It’s your mission statement.
How are you going to measure your progress? What would success look like? If it’s a long-term thing, set yourself some milestones to tick off on the way. How satisfying is that?
It’s got to be doable. Set the bar too high and chances are you’ll end up miserable. You’re teeing yourself up to fail. Set the bar too low and there’s no challenge.
Can I achieve this with the time and other resources I’ve got? If not, better scale it down. There’s no point trying to do something that can’t be done.
Set yourself deadlines. An open-ended goal can be put off forever.