Every day we are faced with staying motivated. For some it is easy, for others, not so much. But at the end of it all, EVERYONE has moments when they feel it would be so much easier to stay in bed an extra hour rather than face morning cardio… or indulge on that Krispy Kreme donut because it has been a “stressful” day.
So the question is: how do we combat this? How do we stay motivated enough to not break our workout commitments, to stick to our diet, to ultimately finish what we set out to do?
Firstly, let’s discover what motivation actually is and how it works? The first step to overcoming any struggles we face is to break it down into smaller steps.
From a Biological point of view, motivation mostly stems from the areas of your brain that yield the highest levels of the hormone ‘Dopamine’. Dopamine is essentially a chemical we naturally secrete into our brains that gives us the feeling of pleasure; nature’s “reward” if you will. It has been found that those that have a “go-getter” attitude possess a greater level of Dopamine in the Striatum and Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex; the Reward and Motivational portions of the brain. Those typically labelled as “slackers” instead produce higher levels of Dopamine in the Anterior Insula; the area of the brain associated with emotion and risk.
Now you’re probably reading this and thinking ‘that this sounds like something out of my control’, since you cannot physically determine the distribution of your body’s secretion of Dopamine… The truth is, despite the Biological Science, 90% of Motivation stems from our psychological desires, and what we as an individual want most. If you need to do a workout or stick to a certain amount of calories/macros for the day, HOW you think about the task at hand is what will ultimately determine how/if you complete it.
Psychologists have determined that there exist three primary sources of resistance when it comes to contemplating goals individuals want to achieve. It is our responsibility to recognise and change our mental approach to each resistance, which will lead to enhanced motivated. The types of resistance are as follows:
Resistance One: “I have to” – feeling as if you are being forced to do something, even if it is something you may normally enjoy (ie. going to the gym).
Solution: “I CHOOSE to.” – Realise that no one is forcing you to do anything. You have the power and the freedom to choose what you want to do, usually becuase you wish to experience the desired benefits and outcome that your action will achieve (ie. Choosing to exercise because you will look good, feel healthy, feel confident, etc).
Resistance Two: “I don’t feel right about this.” – Not feeling comfortable because a task opposes your values and/or beliefs (ie. sacrificing time at the gym or foregoing meal prep in order to spend time with a loved one).
Solution: Realign your tasks. Either change the task to more suitable conditions or add value to your task by associating the benefits with your beliefs (ie. Allocating time to cook or train with your loved ones).
Resistance Three: “I can’t do this.” – Feeling unequal to a task or the impending certainty of failure means any excuse will do (ie. I’m not seeing any progress, so what is the point of continuing?).
Solution: Realise that EFFORT creates EXCELLENCE. If we put effort into a task, we will get better at doing it. If you don’t know how to go about your goal, ask someone who does know and decrease the perceived resistance created from a lack of knowledge.
Mastering how you think during times of resistance is what will turn willpower into WANTpower, and let’s face it; everyone is motivated once they actually know what they want! So the next step moving forward is to create a means of reminding ourselves as to WHY we should think differently when facing resistance, and identifying what we WANT to achieve from all the effort we put into the daily grind… and that’s where goal setting comes into play.
Goal setting is a powerful process for envisioning your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn this vision into reality. Putting pen to paper and physically setting out SMART Goals is a brilliant way to remind yourself exactly why you need to stay motivated to stay on track. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym and provides guidance to effectively setting goals. Each goal or objective should follow this guideline:
Specific – A specific goal will usually answer the five ‘W’ questions:
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
- Who: Who is involved?
- Where: Identify a location.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
Measurable – Indicators should be quantifiable. A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
Attainable – An attainable goal will usually answer the question How?
- How can the goal be accomplished?
- How realistic is the goal based on other constraints?
Relevant – A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Does this match your other efforts/needs?
- Are you the right person?
- Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
Time-bound – A time-bound goal will usually answer the questions:
- What can I do six months from now?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
Use this concept to set short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals so you know exactly WHAT needs to be done, and exactly HOW you’re going to get there in order to achieve all that you have set out to do. Goal setting is ultimately what gives us our sense of direction and purpose, and will significantly increase your drive to challenge any resistance you might face along the way.
Minor Changes to Routine
The final step is then keeping on track, and making sure that we maintain a healthy and goal orientated mindset, knowing what we will achieve. This leads us back to the concept of STAYING motivated. Because as mentioned earlier, everyone has their down days. We can’t escape them, so it’s about applying the following simple strategies that might otherwise turn a daunting day of thinking about how hard squats are going to be that night, into a great new approach to training or dieting. You don’t have to go ahead and change your entire routine; simply mix up some of the following, smaller elements to keep things fresh and escape that stale feeling of endless repetition.
- Mix up your music playlist: rather than listening to the same songs you’ve trained to a thousand times before, download a new album or Youtube a motivational gym mix (or check out Massivejoes.com playlists on Spotify). Popular athletes even post their own personal playlists… you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be motivating to find out that you share the same taste in music as The Rock!
- New Supplements: New supplements always create an air of excitement because you’re eager to know what this new Protein flavour tastes like, or how this new Pre Workout going to affect you? Call it a form of Retail Therapy for gym junkies.
- New Gym Apparel: For guys, having to buy a new T-Shirt/Tank/Stringer because you’ve outgrown, leaned down or worn out all your other tops from all the endless hours in the gym is a reward in itself. For ladies, walking into the gym in a new pair of tights after spending months going HAM on leg day can’t be far off the same feeling. Check out our awesome range of fresh gym and street apparel HERE!
- Visit A New Gym: a simple change of environment can make all the difference. New equipment to play with and a new, different vibe; again the small effort of driving an additional 10 minutes to check out a brand new gym you’ve been told about may help rejuvenate you for Leg Day.
- Get Creative with your Diet: Chicken, rice and broccoli can get de-motivating VERY quickly, so explore different ways you can make it exciting. A different seasoning, using sweet potato or quinoa as your carb source, using turkey mince to make burger patties. Yes, it may take a bit of extra time to organise, but a new meal is an indulgence when you’re dieting! Just make sure it still fits your macros though.
To summarise, discovering the type of resistance you have toward your goal will allow you to recognise what is holding you back. It allows you to analyse your thoughts, and push negative thoughts aside and keep moving forward.
Use goal setting to remind yourself as to WHY you want to do what you are doing. Remembering the purpose and the reason you started your journey will always lead to maintaining your motivation to see it through to the end. Finally, freshen up your routine by changing the little things that won’t actually interrupt your ability to see your goal(s) through to the end. Again, this isn’t about breaking any good habits you’ve learnt, but rather keeping yourself excited about maintaining them.
So the next time you feel like you can’t be bothered, understand you are not alone… BUT, don’t be the person who forgets about their goals when they experience an off day. Know that there are simple ways to freshen up your routine, and ultimately remember that effort creates excellence.