Friday, June 15, 2012
There were quite a number of very interesting responses to my recent blog about motivation (“Even world-class athletes have meh days” www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
What comes through loud and clear is that we are all unique. What works for one person might work even better for some people, similarly for other people, worse for still more people, and not at all for another group of people. Being unique doesn’t mean others aren’t the same in some ways -- as it became clear that I’m not the only one who just does rather than needing some clear “motivation”. It just means that the whole sum of who we are and what works for us isn’t easily defined based on what worked for someone else. As said elsewhere - “we are all an experiment of one”.
(This isn’t to say there’s a magic trick to things; there are natural limitations. Eat too little and our body will suffer malnutrition and starvation. Eat too much and we will feel poorly and gain weight. There’s just a very broad range between those points and our exact position is unique to us, but being a special snowflake doesn’t mean the sun won’t melt us like every other snowflake.)
A new bit of information came at me from an unexpected source today. I usually spend a little time collecting all the “easy” SparkPoints each day – the articles, poll, trivia, quiz, and so on. One of those is the SparkPeople WebSearch. On the page I do the search from, there is a new motivational poster each day. Today’s:
== If ones motives are wrong, nothing can be right. - G.W. Carver ==
Ouch ... am I the only one who cringes copying something with a grammatical error? I wanted to put (sic) in there. ANYWAY ... until I read that, I had not thought about the fact that the root of motivation would be motive. That sent me looking up the definition of motive to see what more that could add to my understanding.
I admit - I can be rather excessive about definition lookups when I’m trying to really make sure I understand a word. First there are the basic definitions:
** Something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act ( www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/m
** An emotion, desire, physiological need, or similar impulse that acts as an incitement to action ( www.thefreedictionary.com/motive )
** Something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive ( dictionary.reference.com/browse/moti
** The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way
** Special Usage: the general desire or willingness of someone to do something (The New Oxford American Dictionary on my Kindle Fire)
Now, the interesting thing about definitions is that they change over time. Sometimes we get the mistaken idea that a dictionary definition is it. But if that were true, there wouldn’t be many different dictionaries and many shades of meaning between them. Just looking at those above, it’s easy to see that the meaning isn’t quite as clear as “sun – that big yellow round thing in the sky during the day”.
Words do lose hold of their original meaning or gain meaning as people use (and misuse) them. In fact, that definition about motives being reasons directly contradicts other references I found that bluntly stated, “motives are not reasons”.
There’s two other parts of many dictionary definitions that I go to for further clarification, especially when the definition alone isn’t enough.
First there’s the etymology:
mid-14c., "something brought forward," from O.Fr. motif (n.), from motif (fem. motive), adj., "moving," from M.L. motivus "moving, impelling," from L. motus, pp. of movere "to move" (see move). Meaning "that which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way" is from early 15c.
Then there are the synonym studies – comparing it to words such as Incentive, Inducement, impulse and even reason:
* Motive is applied mainly to an inner urge that moves or prompts a person to action, though it may also apply to a contemplated result, the desire for which moves the person
* Motive implies an emotion or desire operating on the will and causing it to act; Impulse suggests a driving power arising from personal temperament or constitution; Incentive applies to an external influence (as an expected reward) inciting to action; Inducement suggests a motive prompted by the deliberate enticements or allurements of another
* A reason is an explanation of a situation or circumstance which made certain results seem possible or appropriate; A motive is the hope, desire, or other force which starts the action (or an action) in an attempt to produce specific results.
That very last one comparing it to Reason made a light-bulb go on for me.
Goals, whether they are a number on the scale or a measurement or a clothing size or a physical ability or the elimination of a disease / medication, none of them are motivation. They can be what gives us the hope, desire, urge to work toward that result – what “sparks” our motivation – but they are not actually the motivation itself.
“I want to go to Disneyland next year.” There’s a goal. Without motivation, we don’t save money, we don’t schedule vacation time, we don’t get flights scheduled, and we don’t go to Disneyland.
“I want to go to Disneyland next year so I can have my picture taken with Mickey Mouse.” Now we’ve included a reason. But if we’re still lacking motivation, it’s a pipe dream.
Similarly, we can have many goals and reasons for losing weight, getting fit, getting healthy, but people have spent YEARS wanting to be skinny without having the motivation to get there. And certainly the vast majority of those who show up here at SparkPeople are burning with motivation to make it happen this time when they first arrive, but somewhere along the line even if the goal is still there, even if the desire is still there, something isn’t providing the push.
At the same time, some of those things DO give people the motivation they want. Maybe we stick a picture of Mickey in our wallet and easily turn away from the Starbucks to save that $4.00 toward our trip. Every time we open our wallet our energy to make that trip happens is boosted.
Which kind of brings me full circle to that inner motivation – and not knowing how to explain it well. The same goal that drives one person leaves another shrugging.
Not once along my journey have I felt that giddy bubbly excitement at lower numbers on the scale that I’ve seen others express. Sure, the numbers are fun, but it’s just not the same. (I passed into Onederland with scarcely a murmur. I’m almost to what I’d call my start-point on gaining years ago – back to my “normal” chubby range of 165-185. And yet they’re just numbers.)
What does make me bubbly? I can do two 30-minute sessions on the elliptical with stretches in the middle, resistance set to 5, with the incline doing a full hill through the session. Wooohoo! I’m doing 50 pounds on the seated bench press in 3 x 12 reps now – having started at 20 or 30 in January. *happy dances* I’m doing 155 on the seated leg press without my knees or ankles doing more than an occasional tendon snap (not painful or a problem – just proof they don’t slide as smooth as when I was younger). All stuff that would seem terribly droll to some people.
That may be the real issue. Motivation isn’t an unchanging object. We can’t look at it, touch it, step back and see it as part of the bigger picture, compare it to images and descriptions, and say “Yep, THIS is what motivation is.”
It’s as complicated as love. We just know when we are motivated. When we have it, we’re sure of it. When it weakens or slips away, we question whether it was real and bemoan its loss. We seek it, but more often find it when we aren’t looking.
Signing off on an overly long wall of text. What on earth motivated you to read this whole thing?
Friday, June 15, 2012
Still thinking on the whole geeky gadget thing. Part of what I'm trying to decide is long-term value. Sure, I could easily spend $300-$500 on electronic toys. But am I actually going to get anything out of them beyond what I have now other than a bit of ooh and ahh.
For example, the pedometer has been fun but never really necessary. I wore it very early on to get a rough estimate of how far I was walking. Then I walked a trail with distance markers and discovered how rough that really was. After that I used the map feature to calculate the distances.
I dusted it off and started wearing it routinely two or three months ago when I made 5000+ steps a Team Goal for the Supportive Sparklers. I've been tracking it since, but it doesn't go anywhere that relates to Fitness tracking - it's just one of the "Other Goals" I keep up with.
I haven't had it for 4 days now. If I really needed one badly, I could have gone and spent $10 or less for another. Or there's a wonderful SparkFriend who offered one she isn't using.
But ... I think if I'm honest, I'm not really missing it.
So then I started thinking about the other things.
Heart rate monitors. All of the cardio machines I use at the gym do have sensors to get heart rate. The only one that I can't use sometimes is the treadmill (won't do a reading at 4.0 MPH or faster). They do act up, but most of the time that's obvious. And I can FEEL the differences - I usually know before I put my hands on the sensors whether I'm in the higher end (140-150) or lower end (116-125) or in between.
Again, if I'm honest, it would be a novelty thing, fun information but I don't even keep my hands on the sensors on the machines because I don't need to see every change. The inconvenience and potential discomfort of a chest strap doesn't sound worth it.
Calorie counter. Reading all the information - both from those who responded to my blog or status feed (THANKS EVERYONE!) as well as on the various websites either reviewing or selling these devices - I suddenly realized something. I already know I burn more than SparkPeople's calculations allow for. (Based on losing closer to 1.35 pounds per week while eating calories in the top end of a range set to lose 1 pound ... and doing that consistently for months.) Knowing a more exact number won't change that.
Sleep tracker. Of all pieces, this is the one that piques my curiosity the most. I'd love to get the whole chart of how long it takes me to fall asleep, when I'm more deeply asleep, when I'm more lightly asleep, and so on.
But I know I can fall asleep pretty fast some nights and that other nights I'm laying still for a long time waiting to drift away. I know at certain points during the night I am more "near the surface" and very very easy to wake and other times when I am out like a rock and not completely aware of loud noises around me. I've woken at 3:30 am - 4:00 am to use the bathroom or because my phone vibrated with a text message - and gone right back to sleep after. I'm pretty aware of my sleep habits even if I don't have the exact numbers.
So what does it come down to? I really don't NEED a tracker. I can't even justify any of them to myself as being necessary for me.
All my pondering is currently leading me in the direction of no decision - or I should say a decision of "no".
This is ONLY to say these devices aren't really needed by me. My circumstances are, of course, unique to me. Don't feel any suggestions made were wasted - I know others were reading those comments as well and the information definitely helped me really question myself about whether I just wanted a gadget for the inner geek's sake or for a real need.
Cutting back - on SparkPeople time. It's not the best solution, but what I'm coming down to is that I simply cannot expect to keep up with the Friend Feed. I will miss SparkFriend's blogs. I will miss changes in their status.
Friend Feed. I looked and apparently there is no option to turn off the announcements of SparkPoints won. Well, there is for me to not show mine - but not to turn off it being displayed for others. The only things I have checked to show are "Weight Lost", "Blog Post", and "Status". Even so, it's not the SparkPoints that add a lot of time.
It takes me about 5-10 minutes to scroll through a single page, reading each item and clicking Like and/or leaving a comment, and opening the blogs in another tab. At best if I scrolled past the SparkPoints wins, I'd save myself half that time. Not very significant really.
Blogs, though ... I'm not sure what the average is, but just the first page I went through just now had 14 blogs linked. Each blog takes time to read, time to think about, time to write a response to. Vlogs might take longer depending on how much was uploaded. If my computer decides to slow down, internet chokes a bit, SparkPeople has a hiccup, even that can slow to a crawl. Those 14 blogs can take the rest of an hour to go through. That particular page only included stuff within the last four hours.
The conclusion I am forced to come to is that I simply cannot keep up with every status and every blog. Even with some hours or days slower than others, if it takes me an hour to keep up with 4 hours of updates, that would be 6 hours per day on SparkPeople NOT counting the time to track my food and meals, read articles, do a poll and trivia, huddle with teams, read blogs by teammates, post on team forums.
Clearly something has to give - and it's going to have to be my mindset that I must read every single blog and status. It's just not feasible or realistic. Right now I'm trying to do one page earlier in the day (or one hour's worth if I can do more than a page) and one in the evening.
I apologize in advance if I miss a blog, miss the chance to reply and encourage and answer and suggest. (I do answer most SparkMails, though not always same day - so if you very specifically want me to see a blog, you can always send me a message.)
The little "and more"
My June goal to price out dental visits and costs. There's a dentist's office a few buildings over from where I work. I stopped by to ask. She could only give me a price on the initial visit, but it does include the exam and xrays - and all costs of any work needed could be discussed at that point. So I have an appointment for the last week of June. and surpassed.
The Roth IRA that I opened is amusing me so far. I have to rethink how it works a little - because unlike a 401(k), the money doesn't automatically get added to where funds already are. I have to actually buy into the different things. Some of which have a minimum amount to do so and others have a price per "share". Lots of learning to do. But the amusement? I use Mint to track my accounts and added the IRA to it. It keeps bouncing daily, but I'm able to say I earned $1.55 (on paper) so far.
Of course, that's even less reliable than the scale. It can be $1 lost one day and $1 earned the next. It's fun as long as I can retain that viewpoint.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
As my status today says, my pedometer bit the dust. It was a cheapie from Walmart - just the first and fastest place I could find one near me, nothing more. The LCD started flaking, at first just the last number became difficult to read because two bars stayed on permanently. No big deal - mistaking a 9 for a 0 wouldn't mean much when it was 12,389 versus 12,380 steps. Then the first number started flaking. Again, possible to work around because it was either 0 or 1, and a quick look to see if I was past 4 miles made it easy to tell which.
Yesterday morning, it gave up. The button would no longer toggle between showing miles and steps, the reset didn't change everything to clear it, and shaking it up and down to mimic steps weren't being counted. *toss*
NOW, the "fun" part of deciding how to replace it. I've gotten used to tracking my steps, though I don't use those for my fitness so much as just seeing the days I was more generally active. So I still want a pedometer.
But I've been mentally tossing around the idea of other things and it feels awkward to try to dig through the fluffy marketing to get to the brass tacks of how things really work in practice rather than theory. It's also a challenge to decide what is most practical.
Heart rate monitor
I'm amazingly hard on watches. (The one watch I kept for more than two years had the glass face replaced twice because I scratched it up so much.) I can't imagine being easier on a much bulkier object on my wrist.
I'm a klutz who routinely gets tangled with or caught by dangling wires. (Headphones would last a lot longer if the wires inside didn't break "so easily".) Seriously, door handles and door lock strike plates are my nemesis. So are my feet. In fact, anything that a wire could possibly catch on is a danger around me.
So I have the fun task ahead of me of figuring out:
1) What do I really "need"? What do I "want"? What is excess fluff that sounds good from their marketing but does me no real good?
2) Which are comfortable and durable enough to put up with my abuse? Will I have to sacrifice one thing for another (comfort for accurate heart rate, for example)?
3) Do I want something that is useless if I don't have a connection to some other device - as in an app or a website the data has to go to just to be read and understood?
4) What questions am I forgetting to ask that I might regret later if I make a hasty choice?
This is why I hate shopping most of the time. Even with geek toys, I feel like I'm forgetting the important question, the thing that will leave me wishing I'd bought something else or waited or passed.
I know I shouldn't complain at all. I have the option to buy what I choose without anyone complaining or saying I shouldn't spend that money on me. I have money to spend that could feed someone else for a week or two, easily. Doesn't stop me from going through all sorts of emotions:
Hmmmmm Wha?! Bleargh, data overload!
Saturday, June 09, 2012
Tonight at the gym I happened to glance at the TV that had Piers Morgan doing an interview. Some of them I care very little for, but others have been quite fascinating. LL Cool J really impressed me, for example, with the thought he put into his answers. (Asked what he would pick if he could only do one – movies, TV, or music – he sat a while then said he would do made-for-TV movies that were musicals.)
His guest that I saw was a gymnast on the US Olympic Team – John Orozco. While he misunderstood the question he was being asked (What does it feel like to be as good as you are at what you do?), his answer intrigued me:
== I would say it takes a lot of willpower and a lot of sacrifice and a lot of self-motivation, because you're not going to walk in every day and feel like it's a great day and you want to get all this stuff done and feeling like all jolly, jolly, you know? ==
Another guest, Nastia Liukin, gave a similar answer when asked what it takes to be a champion:
== I think it obviously it takes a lot of hard work. But a lot of discipline, a lot of courage, motivation. You know, it's very hard to find that sometimes, especially on those days that I don't get out of bed or if it's raining outside and you just want to stay under your covers. But I never took a single holiday off. ==
What caught my attention is this. Even world-class athletes have down days, days when they'd far rather toss in the towel than practice and work.
Honestly, if we think about the training regimens athletes at that level put themselves through for years, it is pretty awe-inspiring. It is easy to get the idea that they've found some secret "Fountain of Motivation" that just keeps them going day after day, year after year. But they don't. Some days the motivation just isn't there and it takes gritty determination or force of habit to get moving.
We don't have to be world-class athletes to learn something from this. Look at all the other things they called on. Willpower, sacrifice, discipline, courage. When they didn't want to, they didn't sit down and whine that they didn't feel motivated. They reached elsewhere, found whatever part of themselves was available to give them a push or a pull in the right direction, and did it anyway because it needed to be done.
Don't wait for motivation. Don't ask for motivation. Just DO. Pull on your strengths to get it done. Are you stubborn? Use that by refusing to give in to the blahs. Are you lazy? Use that by making the alternative much more effort. Dig through all your personality traits and find ways your stronger ones can give you the boost that motivation alone is not.
Part of why this really hit me is that I've been pondering motivation for a while. There are MILLIONS of articles, posters, blogs, books, and quotes out there trying to help people find, keep or increase their motivation. There's scientific studies, even, because motivated employees do more work - making more money for their employers.
Constantly it seems, voices in blogs and statuses are saying:
"I've lost my motivation."
"Not feeling very motivated."
How is it that with such an abundance of information on motivation, it seems so immensely difficult to actually stay motivated or motivate others? More personally, why is it that I don't even think of myself as motivated - yet I have no problem sticking to things?
Seriously. I don't go to the gym and do my workouts because I feel motivated. I go because I scheduled them into my day, I have a plan for them, and I plain and simple don't consider anything but illness, injury, or body exhaustion a valid excuse to skip a day. They aren't optional.
I'm not entirely sure what drives me. I just know my body needs it, set a little mental flag that says "this is not optional", and go. I don't really reward myself directly. I have no specific chart of goals and rewards. For every month that I do goals, the reward is the doing of the task, the knowledge I'm making progress, the enjoyment of the very doing.
I've been trying to read the Wikipedia article on Motivation tonight, and learned some interesting things about Intrinsic Motivation versus Extrinsic Motivation. I think I'd have to say I'm very heavily leaned toward Intrinsic Motivation, and not just in weight loss.
I still need to think on this quite a bit. But it's 1:40 am and I've been fighting my eyes trying to finish this somewhere - so here it is.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
This isn't the first time I've made money comparisons to the weight loss journey.
I've been gradually researching IRAs. I know I need to do SOMETHING about my savings. I have no 401(k) options. Savings accounts earn terrible interest rates. (I honestly remember having a Wells Fargo account when I was in my teens that earned 5%, not the weak sub-1% offered these days.)
A few months ago, I went to a site to calculate how much I need to try to save up. It came up with almost $1 million if I retired at 70. That number blindsided me. There was just no way I was ever going to manage to save that much. The amount I'd have to sock away weekly was unreasonable.
Does that sound familiar at all?
How many of us have looked at our starting weight and an ideal weight from a table, calculated the difference between them, and been blindsided by the number? How many of us have had a goal date by which we wanted to lose a set number of pounds, only to discover we'd have to lose 3-5 pounds a week to get there?
I have to be honest. One of the reasons I originally set my SP goal to 160 had nothing to do with a reasonable and healthy weight. It had to do with the difference between saying I had 90-95 pounds to lose and saying I have 100 pounds to lose. Saying 100 just seemed too big. When I went to the goal page, I used the automatic calculator and didn't even look at the expected date to reach it. I didn't want to know how long it was expected to take.
What do we do when something is too much for us to confront? Often we avoid it. We let other things distract us. We don't get started, or we start then quit, because it's just too much and after a little early success we can feel how long it will be.
Last month, I did finally get up my nerve again and start digging some more, trying different scenarios. Cleaning through all my papers reminded me that unless Social Security collapses, I will have at least something other than what I can manage to save. I started planning last week to talk to an account rep at my bank to ask some questions.
And then today something really opened my eyes.
With the Kindle Fire, I often check the "Top 100 Free" ebooks and "buy" many of them. If I don't like them, I just delete them and no loss. Otherwise, I have a vast selection to pick from. Today I finished one and started another randomly (literally flicked the carousel a couple times and tapped one). It happens to be on saving for retirement without living like a pauper.
Like so many books on the topic, it starts with the point about how far along I could be if I'm in my 20s and I start now with some small amount weekly, such as $25.
Oh, yay. What good does that do me? I'm 43. I have a whopping $400 in a generic savings account, all added just this year.
But then it gave an example of someone who was in their early 50s. And the lightbulb went on.
How does putting this off longer help?!
Every single day I put this off is yet another day I'm not making progress.
Sure, I can be upset that I don't already have $200,000 sitting around growing ... but I can't go backwards. I have several choices:
1) I start now. I open an IRA, I set up automatic deposits. I let it grow for 25 years. Figure I put in $400 from my savings, add $15 a week, never changing. In 25 years I'd have put in around $20,000 and potentially have close to $50,000 (assuming a "low" return of 7%)
2) I delay it. In 5 years I start to really feel the pressure, so I start then. Same numbers, but 5 years less ... and I could be just barely past $30,000 instead of nearly $50,000!
3) I put it off indefinitely, never feeling the time is right. The $400 stays in my savings account. Maybe I'm smart enough to add $15 a week and not withdraw anything. I earn 0.85% interest. In 25 years I'll have put in around $20,000 and have a little over $22,000.
4) I don't just put it off. I give up on trying to save. Maybe I leave the $400 in savings just because. Woohoo, I have almost $500 after 25 years.
5) I give up completely and just spend my money freely. Why bother with a savings account that doesn't earn much? I spend it. Oh, hey, credit! I spend up and build crazy amounts of debt because it's easier than confronting my money issues. In 25 years, I owe $50,000 and have no savings and no income other than Social Security. Hope I like being homeless.
Well, DUH! Looked at like that, of course I want to take the first choice.
And yet ... I've gotten to this point because I delayed, put it off, gave up, and even sabotaged myself in years past. I've lived every single other choice.
Whenever I look at $50,000 versus $200,000 it makes me want to just delay more. How completely STUPID is that? Start now and I'll have $50,000 versus $30,000. NEITHER choice, NO choice I could possibly make will give me that $200,000 I could have had with better choices earlier.
Now, let's look at each of those choices translated to weight loss:
1) We start now. We make a few lifestyle changes. We find habits we can live with. We build on those bit by bit. In 10 years we are at or close to our ideal weight, perhaps more fit than we've ever been in our life, and we don't even have to think about many of the healthy habits - they're automatic. We might never be as physically fit as we could have been if we'd never gained the weight in the first place, but we're in great condition all things considered.
2) We delay it. In 5 years we realize we've put on another 15 pounds and REALLY need to do something. Our blood pressure has shot up, we have adult-onset diabetes, and it hurts more to move around. But, hey, at least we listen NOW. In 10 years, we've finally dropped most of the excess weight, but those extra 5 years overweight/obese did a number on our arteries and our joints.
3) We put it off indefinitely. Every once in a while we panic a little as we realize we put on another 5 pounds and briefly go through a spurt of trying to lose by one diet or another. We never consider changing our lifestyle - we just need to lose a few quick pounds. In 10 years, if we're lucky, we weigh a little less. Not enough to address the issues, but at least we did something.
4) We don't just put it off. We give up on ourselves. There's a few good habits we do half-heartedly, maybe, most notably when we want to fool ourselves into thinking we're trying. But for the most part we ignore the mirror, avoid pictures, and just hope that somehow magically one day we'll find a spell and be skinnier. In 10 years, we've added another 20 pounds and are even more overwhelmed by how long it would take to lose and how much work, which we don't think we can do.
5) We give up completely and figure we're already such an obese mess it makes no difference. We might as well eat whatever we want. We're killing ourselves, but at least we won't care about our weight if we do. In 10 years, if we're still alive, we've packed on another 100 pounds, our bodies are crippled by the weight, we're just one mass of health risks, one tick away from a heart attack or losing a leg.
Why would ANYONE ever choose the last option? The first choice will get us there fastest. We may not be there already, we may not be there at the end of 2012, but the first choice WILL get us there.
MORAL OF THE STORY?
In every moment from today forward, don't let the length of the journey scare you. The first choice WILL get you there. The first choice will give you the greatest chance at a healthier, fitter future and as many years as possible in that condition!
If you gain a pound or feel like you've failed in some way, think about whether the choices you are tempted to make in that moment will GUARANTEE you gain even more. If that's not the result you want, don't make those choices!
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