Are you not as eager to exercise as you used to? Does it feel like you’re just going through the motions?
In this newsletter, the topic is how to stay motivated. This is a very broad topic, which I could write an entire book about (and many have been written), but as is the case in my newsletters, I’ll give some information that isn’t just common sense.
Motivation isn’t only psychological. There is a definitely and distinct physiological component to motivation. Your brain has certain neurotransmitters (which are simply chemicals in the brain) specifically designed for motivation. One of those neurotransmitters is epinephrine, which is the one that gets you excited. Another one of those neurotransmitters is dopamine, which gives you feedback about pleasure. When you’re doing something that feels pleasurable (stop thinking dirty!), dopamine is released.
Many other chemicals are involved in motivation. Low testosterone (in both women and men) and DHEA could lead to loss of motivation. Low thyroid can lead to low motivation, and many others.
So how do you know whether your low motivation is due to some physiological imbalance?
Simply ask yourself: am I losing motivation just for exercise or also for other things that I normally enjoy?
If it’s just exercise, then chances are your loss of motivation is psychological. If you’re losing interest in other activities that you ordinarily enjoy, chances are there is some biochemical imbalance in your body. Correcting it with the help of a qualified professional will help you restore motivation (may I recommend my company?).
Have a Strong “Why?”
Ask yourself “why am I doing what I am doing?” Why is exercise important to you? What is the end goal of exercise? What happens if you don’t achieve that end goal? How will you feel? How will your life be different 6 months from now if you don’t achieve that goal? How will your life be different 6 months from now if you do achieve that goal?
Actually answer those questions. Do it on paper. Write it out. You know, the way people used to before computers existed.
You want your reason for exercise to evoke emotion.
There is a great book on behavioral psychology called “Switch: How to Change Thing When Change is Hard.” The authors, Chip and Dan Heath state that you must address 2 things: the emotional side as well as the intellectual side. If there is a conflict between the emotional side and the intellectual side, the emotional side will always win. Case in point: intellectually, you may know that ice cream (or insert your junk food/drink of choice) is not necessarily conducive to your health and fitness goals. But if there are a lot of emotions attached to said food, they will often override your intellect. Sure, you may be able to use willpower for a few weeks to suppress the emotions, but eventually, the emotions will overcome your puny willpower.
So make sure that your emotions are in line with your intellect.
If it’s important to you intellectually, do whatever it takes to evoke emotion. It doesn’t have to be a positive emotion, either. It could be an emotion of disgust or anger or sadness. As long as it is strong, it will get the job done.
For a lot of people, their trigger is seeing a picture of themselves when they aren’t expecting, and thinking “is that really what I look like? I hate that!”
For other people, their doctor may tell them that if they want to see their children graduate, they better lose weight.
For yet another person, it may be that they have a physique that they really aspire to.
Whatever your motivation is, just make sure there is strong emotion attached to it.
Measure whatever is relevant to your goal. If your goal is aesthetics, measure things like body fat and circumferences. If your goal is performance-based, measure whatever is relevant to your performance.
And it doesn’t matter whether your measurements are moving in the right direction or the wrong direction.
If your measurements are moving in the right direction (ie you’re losing body fat and/or gaining muscle), that should make you happy. You’re getting closer to your goal. Happiness is a good motivator.
If your measurements are moving in the wrong direction, that should make you angry. That’s good too. Anger is a strong motivator, and it will add to your motivation in a different way.
Have a Troubleshooting Plan
For some people if their measurements aren’t going in the right direction, rather than getting angry about that, they get discouraged, and lose their motivation, thinking “maybe it just isn’t worth it.”
If you have a troubleshooting plan, you can avoid that. What’s a troubleshooting plan? It is having 3 different plans for 3 different situations.
When you take your measurements, 3 different things can happen:
- They are moving in the right direction, so you’re making progress.
- They are moving in the wrong direction and you’re actually regressing.
- They are not moving. You are not progressing and you are not regressing.
If you are progressing, the plan is simple: keep doing what you’re doing.
If you are either regressing or stagnating, have a plan before you take your measurements for what to do if that happens. Don’t wait until you take your measurements to start figuring that out, because if you do that, you aren’t thinking logically. You need a clear head to figure out a plan of action, and when you’re either angry or upset about your measurements not going the way they should, your plans don’t tend to be all that sound.
The last strategy that I’ll talk about is blackmail. Blackmail can be extremely effective and a very strong motivator.
Here is one way to blackmail yourself: have a negative consequence for not reaching your goal. And tell everyone about your goal and that consequence.
In a book called “The Blackmail Diet”, one man blackmailed himself in this way: if he did not lose 70 pounds in one year, he was going to donate a large sum of money to a Neo-Nazi organization. This is obviously something he did not want to do, so he lost those 70 pounds.
Your blackmail doesn’t have to be quite so extreme, but the key to a successful blackmail is twofold:
- Come up with a negative consequence that you really don’t want to happen. And find some way to make sure that consequence really does come true if you don’t reach your goal. The man in the example above put his money in escrow. It’s very important to make this a consequence you don’t want to happen. Because if it’s a negative consequence, but you don’t really care, or it won’t have such a negative impact, you will not be as motivated.
- Tell everyone you know about that goal and the consequence.
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