You can’t talk about health without touching on this holy-grail topic: motivation. Motivation is what causes you to get out of bed in the morning, but what exactly is it?
Put simply, motivation is the drive to achieve your goals or needs and it is influenced by three things:
We often think of motivation as being a ‘“yes” or “no” state of being’ but it is actually much more complex than that. If you want to feel motivated, you are capable, but you have to dig deep. As James Clear says, “there are some days when the most talented people in the world wake up feeling like sluggish lard bombs” (yes, even Lebron James wakes up feeling unmotivated sometimes). However, their deep sense of purpose or meaning pushes them through these kinds of days.
Now, this all sounds fine and dandy, but how do you actually motivate yourself when you don't have a clear-cut purpose? Eric Barker, author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, cites three steps to motivation:
We tend to procrastinate the most when we are in a bad mood. I know when I’m in a bad mood all I want to do is wallow in my negative emotions. This is actually hard-wired in us — we think procrastination will help manage our mood, but we’re wrong. Reminiscing on our current state won’t do us any good. So, what’s the key? Optimism. In order to mentally toughen up recruits, the military doesn’t teach hand-to-hand combat, but optimism. Optimism has that much power.
To channel your optimism, it’s important to monitor the progress you’re making toward your goal. Research done by Harvard’s Teresa Amabile found that progress is the single-most motivating factor. If you think about it, it makes sense. For example, let’s say you’ve been struggling in your Chemistry class. You’ve failed exam after exam, but then manage to pull off an A on one test. I guarantee you’re going to be a lot more motivated to try harder in that class. You now see that you’re capable of doing well, so it’s no longer a far-fetched goal.
Everybody loves rewards! In fact, research shows that rewards are responsible for three-quarters of why you do things (crazy right?!). You strive towards your goals because of the prize you see at the end of the tunnel. For example, not everyone is going to exercise more for the fun of it. Rather, rewards such as living a longer life, better mood, or weight loss will cause them to go after that goal. But this also applies at a much smaller scale. Let’s say you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork and you really don’t want to. The key is to connect this mundane task to something you really want to do. So, listen to your favorite album while you fill out the paperwork or treat yourself to your favorite ice cream once you finish. This way there is a clear reward in sight by doing and completing this task.
While “Peer Pressure” usually has a negative connotation, it can actually be used for good as well. Research shows that peer pressure actually helps kids more than it hurts them. According to the Longevity Project, this is because “the groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become. For people who want improved health, association with other healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change”. If you want to start walking more, get a walking buddy who will hold you accountable on those days you don’t feel like moving. It is much less difficult to stay motivated when you are surrounded by people who have the same goals as you.
When finding motivation, it is important to answer these questions:
You want to be very clear on what it is you are after so that you don’t stray away from the path. Clearly mapping out your goal and what you are going to do to reach that goal makes achieving it much easier. You can have clear progress indicators that show where you are on your journey. So, what are you waiting for? Write down your goal and goal path and go after it! It’s time to find motivation from within.
Want an app that helps you get motivated? Check out PlayFitt, the movement app that can track your squats, pushups, stairs, steps, and more! Who knew living a healthier life and building sustainable habits could be so fun?