I read something the other day that caught my attention. But more than that, it may have changed the way I think about this topic.
“Here’s the reality, motivation, as you know it, is a myth.”
Has it caught your attention?
This is a typical scenerio. You know exactly what you need to do. You’re focused on all the positive outcomes that will result once you’ve finished this task. You’ve cleared your calendar so you can focus on completing this one thing, and then … nothing happens.
Why? Because you think you need motivation. You’re waiting on a spark, on some type of inspiration to appear and smack you in the face. If this sounds like you, you may be waiting for a long time. Here’s why. Motivation is a result of productivity, not the other way around like so many people believe. Even I try to help people get healthy by telling them to “find” their motivation.
Motivation never comes before productivity. Think about it this way. When do you feel more motivated? Before you start a huge project, or after you’ve started it and things are getting more clear on what your doing and what more needs to be done?
When we start something new, whether it’s a new exercise program, a healthy diet, quitting smoking or even a project at work, we are always a bit nervous. We spend too much time wondering about the “what ifs.” We worry what people might say, how we will do, can I finish what I started. But once you get started and start being productive, the creative energy kicks in. You get excited, and you want to do more. That’s when the real motivation happens.
So in the case of beginning an exercise program, simply beginning your program is one of the most important short-term goals. Once you start your exercise program, other goals, such as the intensity, types or duration of the workout, will become your focus. But you cannot begin to achieve those if you never get started. If you want to get happy, you have to get moving.
William James, the father of modern psychology, has said, “I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” So in this case, we could just as easily say that you aren’t productive because you’re motivated; you’re motivated because you’re productive. Here are five easy steps to help you get productive when it comes to exercising:
— Plan to do your workouts at a time that has the highest probability that you will actually do them.
— It’s easy to skip a workout when it’s just you. You’re less likely to skip if you know your friend is waiting for you.
— Be prepared to work out whenever the opportunity rises. If you don’t know when you might have time, have your workout clothes with you at all times.
— There may be a good reason why you are resisting an upcoming workout, but commit to do the first 5 minutes. Often, once you start, you will finish.
— Don’t do too much too soon. What’s most important for motivation is accomplishing and completing a task on a consistent basis, not the size of the task itself.
This is not the first article ever written on the subject of finding ways to motivate yourself, and it won’t be the last. Entire industries have been built on the idea that they have the secret that will get you off your butt and into action. And yes, there are external things that can motivate you for small periods of time. But real, long-lasting motivation is only achieved when you pull it out of yourself with intention. The simple fact is that the only secret to motivation is what you’ve known all along … hard work.
Mike DeCinti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.