Motivation is a powerful tool. Knowing you should save money doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t make impulsive purchases. But if early retirement is your goal then it is far easier to pass on that new sweater, or movie, or gadget, or whatever your vice is. You have a different perspective.
Knowing what motivates you to make healthy choices is an equally powerful tool. If you ask someone why they exercise they’ll often respond with something like “I want to lose 20 lbs” or “I want to fit into the jeans I wore in high school.”
But the weightloss itself isn’t really the motivating factor. It’s WHY you want to lose 20 lbs or WHY you want to fit into your old jeans that really motivates you. The reasons could be endless and are completely unique to you:
- You want to feel attractive
- You want your husband / wife to compliment you more
- You want the confidence you used to have
- You want to feel better about yourself when you look in the mirror
- You want others to stop judging you based on your size
- You name it…
Maybe you’ve already been around that bend and your motivation is to stay stronger and feel younger for longer. Or you want to do adventurous activities with your family. Or you want to maintain your independence as you age. Or you saw someone you love destroy their health with poor choices and you refuse to fall victim to the same cycle.
Knowing your reason is important, because if you don’t dig down deep and discover WHY you’re making the choice to live a healthy lifestyle then you’ll constantly be fighting the same battle – losing and regaining weight, seeing muscle definition then getting “soft” again, fueling your body with wholesome and nutritious food then eating out too much or eating too many processed and prepackaged foods.
But motivation is a double-edged sword because it is so deeply connected to our feelings. These feelings can be what pushes us to do our best, but they can also be the reason we give ourselves excuses. At this time of year when it’s cold and blustery outside and everywhere you go there seems to be a celebration of junk food, your feelings can easily convince you that it’s OK to sit down and treat yourself. Day after day.
That’s why I believe motivation isn’t enough. Yes, go through the exercise of asking yourself the reasons WHY you want to be healthy. And then commit to it no matter what. You must be determined to see it through or it will be too easy to find excuses to quit.
Motivation and determination
Motivation is defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. Determination is defined as firmness of purpose; resoluteness.
So where motivation is the WHY, determination is the HOW. And when it comes to being fit and healthy for a lifetime, you can’t have one without the other.
You want to feel attractive (motivation) so you walk four miles every day (determination).
You want to feel confident and stop comparing yourself to others (motivation) so you lift weights and run a couple times a week (determination).
You don’t want to end up on medication for the rest of your life (motivation) so you eat mostly whole foods to keep your body functioning as good as possible (determination).
You want the people you love to live long and happy lives (motivation) so you help them develop healthy habits by making it easy for them to choose what’s healthy no matter how complicated it makes your own day (determination).
Putting it to use
When you’re tempted to put off your workouts or eat as much of whatever food you want, remember WHY you started developing healthy habits in the first place. Allow that reminder to be your resolution to continue on.
The thought process may go something like this:
“Cheesecake is my FAVORITE and I just can’t pass it up. But this week I will attend multiple parties. If I overeat and have dessert at each party then I will gain weight. If I gain weight, my jeans will be too tight. Fitting into my jeans is something that makes me feel confident and attractive. I don’t want my jeans to be too tight – and I don’t want to feel gross later – so I will make healthy choices and allow myself only one small treat at each party. To lessen the blow, I will cut the amount of carbs and sugar I eat during the day and focus on having more veggies and lean protein. Hello, grilled chicken over salad!”
“I’m really not motivated today. All I want to do is sit down and have a glass of wine. But I should workout five days this weeks. If I don’t, not only will I start to gain weight, but I will lose the progress I’ve worked so hard for. I need to workout so I feel strong, upbeat, and positive. I can’t workout on Thursday because there’s a family event. I can’t workout Saturday morning because I have to be somewhere. If I want to get in all my workouts, I have to workout today. OK. Like it or not, I better get moving.”
Motivation alone isn’t always enough to help you through the rough patches. Sometimes, reminding yourself WHY you make certain choices is all the determination you need to stick to it. There will be days that you don’t feel like working out or you do feel like eating a large ice cream sundae. And while times of resting and treating yourself are important, you have to be careful not to allow those behaviors to become a habit. Those feelings can control your choices, if you let them.
You have to be honest with yourself. You have to be determined to stick it out even when you don’t feel like it.
To sum it up
Ask yourself WHY you want to be healthy. WHY you want to eat nutritious food and exercise. The answers you’ll find may be the tool you need to take action. If you can’t find a good answer to the WHY, then you don’t really desire the change and will never do what it takes to see it through. Find your WHY.
When you’re tempted to slack off, remember that WHY. Think about how much it means to you and then do something about it, even if you don’t feel like it. Be resolute and firm in your purpose to live a healthy life.
And celebrate! Smile. Take a moment to feel proud. Because what you’ve done is amazing.