Is Motivation the Key?

Every action we take in life begins with motivation.  Some people are motivated to go to work in order to get a paycheck while others are passionate about what they do and are motivated to do an excellent job.  You may use your seatbelt every time you’re in a car from a motivation of safety or you volunteer at a local food bank because you have a desire to give back to the community.  A lot of the things we do have become habits that we developed over time, based upon the same initial motivation.  One area in life that people closely link to motivation is health.  Whether they are referring to staying active, eating a healthy, well balance diet, keeping up with suggested preventative care or maintaining a healthy body composition (including body fat, weight and visceral fat), a perception of success or failure is connected with levels of motivation.

Not all motivation is the same.  There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors, it can be deep or superficial and autonomous or heteronomous.  Motivation can also come and go depending upon changes and circumstances.  Our motivation for doing something can change over time as we age and our thinking evolves.  Healthy and long-lasting motivation, no matter what the goal, is rooted in autonomy.  Humans have an innate desire to control their own will.  We want to know that the choices we make and actions we take originate from our own free will and not due to external influence.  This is exactly where each person’s physical and psychological health journey should begin.  Educate yourself and then decide what you want, why you want it and how you are going to get there.  Taking full responsibility for your decisions and actions will help keep you committed when you are feeling less motivated.

If your desire and motivation are centered around living a healthy life, it’s important to implement life changes that will aid in lifelong success.  A good place to start is talking with your health care team.  They can equip you with the tools you will need.  Many of these changes begin with the way you think. 

Here are some examples of important life changes

·      Focus on healthy living and not weight loss – weight loss doesn’t always lead to better health mentally or physically but healthy living will.  Weight loss is a benefit of healthy living.

·      Evaluate the nature of your goals and quality of your motivation – as stated above, begin from a place of autonomy and create SMART goals.

·      Self-monitoring – instead of trying to remember what you eat and how many active minutes you have each day, write it down or track it in an easy to use app for your phone or computer.

·      Individual, group and peer support – in person guidance as well as phone and email support initially will give you the resources you need and help to keep you focused.  Having ongoing support from friends and family will help keep you on track.

·      Make planning a way of life – meal planning, daily calorie needs based upon activity level, exercise and activity, healthy sleep, stress relief/reduction, staying on track during holidays, vacations, parties and eating out.

·      Change the way you think of food – think culinary medicine.  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates.

·      View exercise as a source of enjoyment, rewarding and a healthy challenge – find an activity that you enjoy and do it in a way that is fulfilling (with a friend, time alone, out in nature, volunteering to lead an activity group at a senior center) or challenge yourself by trying something new like salsa dancing.

·      Exercise “choicefulness” – choose to take control and implement self-regulation surrounding activity, nutrition, sleep, work/life balance and personal relationships.

·      Plan for setbacks – these will happen.  Accept them as learning opportunities and get back on track.  Never let them discourage you but use them as motivation.

Starting with an autonomous motivation will put you on the right path.  Having these and other lifestyle modification in place, will keep you on that path during the times when your motivation is lacking.  These modifications will eventually become habits that will promote health for years to come.