Motivation | The 2 Types Of Motivation For Better Fitness Habits

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Just because you start and stop your fitness goals doesn’t mean you’re lazy. You might just be using the wrong form of motivation.

We all have a natural tendency to want to be healthy and fit. The problem is that it usually takes a considerable amount of consistency and work once we’ve actually decided on a goal worth pursuing. With best intentions we start strong for the first 14 to 28 days only to revert back to our old habits and behaviours and land back at square one.

Sound familiar?

You’d be pleased to know that you’re not the only one. Everyone struggles with motivation at some point, usually due to one of the following reasons:

  1. They choose the wrong goal for their current life stage
  2. They don’t understand what motivation really is and how to leverage it
  3. They are not aware of the biases, heuristics and blindspots that guide their decision making

What is motivation?

Motivation is not what we see on social media, it’s not the brief moment of inspiration we feel when someone delivers a compelling speech or 15second video.

Motivation is the ability to persevere towards our goals regardless of obstacles, situation and excuses.

This is also known as accountability. When we get it right, motivation is simply knowing why we are doing something, knowing what is required and consistently heading towards it no matter what.

Setting the right goal

This video explains in detail why we choose the wrong goal and how to assess whether or not a goal is right for us. To summarise, we can usually put our failures in the following categories:

  1. Impulse Led
  2. Poor Planning
  3. Too big, too soon

Avoiding choosing goals based solely on social media inspiration, other’s journeys or our own desperate need to escape will help you align to the right mission and goal. This usually takes a lot of thought and consideration at points and can also highlight we have been wasting time in areas of our life that don’t matter.

Once we have our true purpose, mission or goal we can only then build the right motivation or accountability structure that will support us on the journey.

Understanding Motivation

There are two forms of motivation, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Understanding each and knowing what levers we can use in each form will go a long way to building a structure that promotes consistency on our journey.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation refers to an action or behaviour that is driven by internal reward. The motivation to engage in a behaviour or action comes from within because it is satisfying to you. These are personal and are usually driven by our values or principles. Intrinsic motivation is the strongest form of motivation as we do not have to rely on external motivation to maintain the course we have chosen.

“Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potential.”

Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behaviour With Concept Maps
Types of Intrinsic Motivation
  • Sense of achievement: If you’re a high performer in any other area of your life chances are this is a key motivator for you. Leverage this by building a goal that is challenging yet achievable. Celebrate key milestones and then ultimate success.
  • Purpose: Knowing you have a purpose is similar to the military term “sacrifice above self”. By having a motivator that is greater than a personal need you often feel compelled to drive to completion due to helping others by your actions. 
  • Enjoyment: We should be enjoying what we do for the most part. If everything we do is hard to accomplish we often give up well before we see a benefit. And don’t forget to embrace the journey itself, enjoy the fact you’ve chosen to become a better you.
  • Curiosity: A thirst for knowledge or curiosity goes a long way. Trying new things, stepping outside your comfort zone is always easier when you are curious of what might happen. 
  • Personal Growth: If we’re not growing, we’re dying. The average Australian has 82.5years on earth. Could you imagine being the same person you were at 20 when you’re 80? Life should be a journey and the lessons you learn should be the postcards. Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of being the same.
  • Fun: As adults we forget to have fun. Laughing and not taking things too seriously is a very important way to relieve stress. When we can make a task fun, it often negates the time requirement like the age old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun.”
  • Pain or wanting to remove pain: Pain can be a powerful motivator for people, but it only works if you stay close to the stimulus. As you grow and develop, pain will cease to be a viable motivator for most people. It is usually the escape from pain that people desire and once this occurs the effect of pain as a motivator diminishes.
What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivators as you might have guessed are driven by external rewards or punishment. We can often use extrinsic motivation as “reinforcers” of intrinsic motivation but effort should be made to transition from being extrinsic to intrinsic as quick as possible. If we are learning a new skill, extrinsic motivation can help increase our speed to competency and confidence.

Types of Extrinsic Motivation
  • Community: We are naturally wired to be driven by community. The saying “Your vibe attracts your tribe.”. Find people who are on the same mission and help each other complete it.
  • Monetary: Paying someone or for something to keep you accountable. This is more than ok if you have the disposable income to afford it. Hence why personal training is so popular. We call this skin in the game. 
  • Competition: The competitive individual, this can be a great way to improve competency quickly. If you are new to a task having someone to chase down or beat can drive you to great results. 
  • Prizes and rewards: Similar to competition, knowing there is a reward or prize at the end of the tunnel drags people through sometimes. I think this best works out when you have a personal reward or prize that promotes hard work. What can you give yourself once you complete the goal?
  • Status: This is where competition transitions. You gain status by being at the top of your game or above your peers. 
  • Fear: Similar to pain, fear can drive motivation. FOMO is a common lever salesmen push but genuine fear can only be used to drive change. The downside just like pain, is that you cannot maintain this for a long period as it can become detrimental. 

Choosing The Right Levers

You may have already guessed that when it comes to motivation, everyone is going to be different depending on their life stage, abilities, experience and interests. An easy way to discover what type of motivation you need to apply is by pulling apart your results from the 8 question quiz from this post. Grade these questions out of 10:

  1. In the last six months, how much have you thought about achieving this goal?
  2. In the last six months, how much time have you put into planning how to achieve your goal?
  3. In the last six months, how much have you socialised your thoughts about making a change with people you trust?
  4. How good is your support network and structure to deal with the change journey and potential setbacks/failure?
  5. How aware are you of the poor habits and behaviours that derail your momentum and success?
  6. These poor habits, behaviours and lack of success are causing you distress, negative emotions or outcomes?
  7. Rate your experience to make a similar change like this in the past with success.
  8. Rate your motivation to achieve or get started towards this goal.

Once you have graded these questions out of 10, divide your score by 80. This should leave you with a percentage out of 100. We’re aiming for 80% or above.

Questions 1-3 apply directly to your individual readiness in relation to the goal. If you score low on these questions it’s a good possibility the goal is too big or not in alignment to where you really need to head.

Question 4 is all about your support network. Engaging extrinsic motivation methods such as community and competition can help increase engagement.

Question 5 & 6 are about the pain, fear or negative emotions you feel about your current situation. If we score low here we might not be far enough down the change journey in order to stay motivated long term.

Question 7 is a perfect question to assess the use the extrinsic motivators such as money or getting a coach. If you don’t have the experience, you can easily bump those numbers up by engaging someone who has or a community of people like you

The final question is a raw score of motivation, if you get to the end of the quiz and find that this is lower than a 9 or 10, you might have more important things to worry about in your life. Focus on those as simply adding yet another goal to your list can become overwhelming.

Putting It All Together

Just like fitness, motivation ebbs and flows with our varying changes in life. This process is not set in stone for every area and phase of your life and can be changed in an instant to gain the momentum towards your goals.

Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to pivot when required. Most importantly, take the time to assess what truly matters to you and motivation will become much easier in all facets of life.

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