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Do you ever wonder why you’re able to achieve some goals but not others? At work the other day we were talking about the folks who compete on weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser and why they almost always gain the weight back. The answer is actually pretty easy to find but perhaps not so easy to follow through on. You see, it has to do with your motivation.

But, I AM Motivated!

Let’s talk for a minute about what motivation really means.

Most of us, when we think about being “motivated” are thinking that we really want the end result. For example, I am motivated to save my money and buy a beach house in Venice, CA. The end result is super exciting and I would love to have it. And to achieve that goal, I might save extra money for a few weeks and maybe I won’t go to the coffee shop daily and curb my spending. But, because I’m more excited about the idea of my goal than the actual work that’s required to put into it, I won’t likely follow through.

The same is true for most people’s weight loss or fitness goals. We’re excited about wearing a size 8 or about crossing the finish line in a big race but when it comes to doing the day to day work, we don’t follow through.

So, let’s not confuse excited by the end result with motivation. We all do it and it doesn’t serve much purpose.

Let’s Talk About REAL Motivation

Did you know that there are different types of motivation?

There’s extrinsic or external motivations. These are reward driven. For example, you may get a shopping spree if you lose 30 pounds. In the case of the folks on the biggest loser, they had several extrinsic motivations like winning, temporary celebrity, money, etc…Avoiding punishment is also an extrinsic motivator.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation that comes from within. For example, if you notice that you sleep better when you exercise then you’re motivated internally to exercise. You lose weight because you don’t want to get Type II Diabetes or you eat more fruits and veggies because you don’t want cancer or heart disease, these are internal motivators. Joy is another internal or intrinsic motivation. It’s why fitness coaches often recommend to find a physical activity that you enjoy.

A Balancing Act

If you look back at the times where you were able to achieve your goals, chances are you’ll find that most of your motivation was intrinsic. Sure, there may have been some external reward or punishment you were avoiding but chances are that wasn’t the whole story. If you look back to when you were successful, you likely weren’t excited about the possibility of your goal. You weren’t motivated and taking daily steps toward your goal because you were getting a new outfit or a paycheck. You were probably taking steps toward your goal because you enjoyed the process.

Let me say that again….

You were probably successful at achieving your goal because you enjoyed the process.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering how in the hell you’re going to enjoy exercise and diet changes, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. And there is joy to be found – trust me.

We’re going to talk about where to find joy, and how, next time. For now, go back and think about the times you were successful at achieving your goals. Write down what you enjoyed about that process. Turn the page and make a second list. Write down a list of the things you enjoy, the foods that you love, the activities that make you happy, and the feelings or experiences that bring you joy.

Here’s an example…I love learning new things. Anytime I learn something new or a new way to move my body, it brings me joy. I love dark chocolate and really good coffee. I savor them. I love feeling free from the expectations of others and I find great joy in expressing myself creatively. One goal that I achieved was learning how to do a muscle up. It took me a year and a lot of learning and practice, but I found joy in the small gains I made along the way and tremendous happiness when I was able to make my body perform that movement.

Now you go make your lists and we’ll talk next time about where to find joy and motivation when you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, and change your lifestyle.

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