Knowing what motivates you (and those around you) is important if you want to achieve something. There’s no point setting yourself a goal to finish a marathon when your key motivation is financial incentives, and a marathon doesn’t have any.
All of us have our own hot buttons. Here’s a list of the most common, and how you can harness them to improve your health, and keep motivated to exercise and eat healthy. You’ll probably fall into more than one category, and that’s great, it means you have even more tools that you can use to motivate yourself.
I bet you that your primary motivation is money. If your first thought was “I’ll take that bet, I can use the money, I just need to fib and pretend I’m motivated by something else” then this is probably your section. And you owe me $20.
Any incentive works though. For example, let’s say you really want a holiday to Tahiti. Every time you exercise for longer than 45 minutes, you can put $20 into a tin, or a separate savings account. Each week, that’s $100 you’ve put away. Over a year, that will add up to $5,000 (if you allow a couple of weeks off). You can get a pretty decent holiday with that cash, and if you can get your partner to chip in too, you could be relaxing on the beach of a five star resort before you know it!
The control freak:
If you’re someone who hates the idea of having someone else determine your life, or you can’t stand the idea of being unable to do something that you want to do, then this could be the motivation you need.
Wanting to control your own life and choices can be harnessed to achieve your goals simply by breaking your big, complex goals down into little, simple ones.
Give yourself small goals that you can control, and then set a schedule for achieving them. Your goal might be to finish a marathon, so between now and then set your goal to run 40kms over a month. Then over three weeks, then two, then one, until you’re able to run 40kms in one run.
Another method is to create a situation where you’ll lose control if you don’t stick to your goal. Make a deal with your friend, partner or training buddy that if you go off your plan (like miss two training sessions, or eat two bad meals in a row) they get to set your meal plan or training plan for the next week – and you’re not allowed to complain!
Most people would balk at this, but as a control freak, this is your kryptonite! Once this agreement is made, nothing short of the apocalypse will make you fall short of your goals!
The high achiever:
You’re the person who always has something to prove. Not usually to others, but always to yourself. You want to make sure that whatever you’re doing, you do it the best you know how. When you want to burn those fats, you make sure you’re always ahead in your workout routine burning those fats.
Recognition from others is something you absolutely love. When you walk into a room and people look at you like “They’re here! NOW things will get done!”, this is your heaven.
To harness that nature, keep track of your progress at every step of the way. If you’re trying to get fit, take photos of yourself every two weeks. Write your personal best of your favourite exercises on the back of the photo you print out. That way you can look back and realise that you’re beating your previous personal best all the time.
If the idea of beating your old self every month motivates you, then this is your section!
The self improver:
You’re always trying to add to your skillset. in the last few years you’ve learned a new instrument, finished some courses and maybe learned a new language.
You’re a lot like the high achiever, but you want to be good at a lot of things, not necessarily the best at one thing. You want to be the Swiss Army knife of people -you’ve got something useful for every situation.
To use this for fitness, you just need to have lots of varied, short term goals. Maybe set a new one every few months at the start, then make them longer-term as they get more difficult. Your first goal might be to go in an open water swim, so you spend three months training that. Then the next one might be to do a half marathon, so your cardio from the swimming goal helps you get to that in four months. After that, you want to go in a cycling road race, then, you’re going for a triathlon. Each goal builds on the last one, but also challenges you in new ways.
Feeling stagnant is what you hate, so keep varying the goal, but build towards something that really challenges you, and that you’ll be massively proud of. Make sure you stick with it though. It’s easy for you to get distracted by new and unusual things.
You’re the person who loves to share everything with your friends. You tell them about your low carb diet, what pre-workout supplements you use and other mundane stuff. If you go out for dinner, all the pictures of you and your friends are all over all the social media sites you use. You really enjoy being around others and want opinions before you do anything important.
The key to fitness for you is to make it a group activity. Join a sporting team, exercise with friends or find a gym-buddy. Make sure they still take it fairly seriously though, you want to be social while you exercise, not exercise while you’re being social.
Surround yourself with supportive people who won’t let you go easy on yourself though. When you feel like taking it easy, they say they feel like working extra hard. These are the best exercise buddies you can have!
The angry bull:
If you can remember an achievement that you struggled with until someone told you that you’d never do it, then then might be you.
You tend to cruise a bit, until someone tells you that you can’t do something. Then every waking moment is devoted to proving that they were wrong to doubt you. You approach it with a single mindedness that borders on obsession, but you get there.
Harnessing this is tricky, because you can’t really fake it. The motivation comes from a bit of anger, and a lot of pride. The key is to put yourself in competitive situations as often as possible. People will doubt you and dismiss you all the time, and you can delight in showing them that they were wrong to do so.
If you need to have that little bit of panic before you can do something, this is you.
Be aware that this can easily become destructive. The biggest fear you should be concerned with is letting yourself down. You are the only person you need to live up to, but if you’re genuinely afraid that if you don’t get your health in order that you may not be able to be the parent, partner or person that you want to be, then you can use that to drive yourself to get healthy!
Never forget that everyone feels fear, harnessing it to get you to focus is using it in a positive way, but if you find yourself awake at night panicking that you’re falling behind, then it’s not a motivator, it’s holding you back. Remember, you are the only one you need to impress, and you’re pretty awesome, even if you do say so yourself!
So these are the major motivators, and a few ideas on how to harness them. Have a think about any success you had, and how you achieved it. Try to repeat that as much as possible.
If one approach doesn’t work, try another one. We’re complex creatures, so it’s not likely that you’ll fall into just one category. Play with your approach and find what works for you!