What is motivation, anyway?
Sunday, September 09, 2012
What is motivation, anyway? I am still learning the answer, but I know what it looks like:
Yesterday, I attended a Weight Watchers meeting. I sat there slack-jawed as this slender woman swimming in oversized clothes stood up and announced that she was wearing the same outfit she wore when she walked into her first WW meeting 120 pounds ago. She passed around a photo album of "before pix" that revealed she must've weighed nearly 300 pounds.
In the September 17, 2012 edition of TIME magazine, Dr. Mehmet Oz has a wonderful article on motivation. In the article, "Goal Power" he offers readers a guide to getting unstuck. I recommend you find a copy of this week's TIME to read the full article, but I'll offer a few of its talking points:
Dr. Oz argues that there is a huge gulf between deciding to do something and making it happen. Millions of people are trapped in that gulf because our reasoning abilities and our emotions don't always match. He says he sees the conflict every day when a patient starts a sentence with "I know I should ....." He said he knows those words are a sad predictor that he will probably one day crack open their sternums in the operating room trying to undo the damage that poor choices and unhealthy lifestyles have done to their hearts.
If people simply needed education, then we'd all be thin, but we know that's not the case. You show me an obese person and I'll show you someone who's an expert on what it takes to live a healthier lifestyle. They KNOW what they need to do, but haven't made it happen. Why?
Scientists are scurrying to find the answer to this question. Here's what they've figured out so far:
1) Personal transformation is a psychological and spiritual process.
2) Self-improvement combines this spiritual and psychological process with external accountability.
3) Success is contagious. If one person in a group loses weight, it influences their social circle. An example of this is one person quits smoking because their co-worker did. Then, their spouse quits because they no longer have someone sharing their habit.
4) The road to better health starts with baby steps. Why? Because they are doable and the change is sustainable. The lesson is, when you start an exercise program, don't promise yourself you will run three miles five days a week. Start with 10 minutes three days a week and go from there.
Our joining SP means we've recognized the need to change. That's an important step, but a small one. By combining that recognition with the principles above, we can build and sustain healthier habits for the long haul.
So when I saw that inspiring woman in WW yesterday, she became a part of my circle of influence. Plus, weighing in at the meeting, blogging and journaling keeps me accountable.
Whether we engage in these activities face-to-face or online, (I happen to need BOTH forms of accountability) we are putting into practice what researchers have identified as contributors to our success. And THAT, my SP friends is what I've learned so far about motivation.
Onward and downward.