Print This Page SparkPeople

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation - Part 2

Building & Maintaining Motivation
  -- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
Do you often find yourself wondering where your motivation went? Do you suddenly revert back to your “old ways” without really understanding why?

If this sounds familiar, you may have some basic misconceptions about motivation: what it is, where it comes from, and what you can do to hang on to it. Well get ready to understand all those things and learn what it takes to become your own best motivator!

Part 1 in this series explained what motivation really is—taking responsibility for conscious actions—and how to prevent it from waning. This article will help you build up that much needed motivation and keep it for the long haul.

To become your own best motivator, you must consistently do two things:

1. Consciously choose to eat well and exercise as often as you can. This isn’t something you do once or at the beginning of your diet. It is something you have to do multiple times each day, whenever you are thinking about eating or figuring out what to do with your time. It is a matter of trying to be mindful about what you are doing, instead of mindlessly reacting to your emotions, your circumstances, or your habits and natural predispositions. This can be as simple as taking a second to ask yourself, "Is this what I want to do?"

2. When you do something different than what you think you should do, understand that this was also your choice. This is where things can get a little tricky. Your natural inclination may be to figure out why this happened or, even worse, what’s wrong with you that “makes” you do what you don’t want to do. This is just the opposite of what you need to do. Simply accept the decision you made as a valid decision made by you. It doesn’t matter whether it was right or wrong. Just think of it as a valid decision made under less than ideal circumstances. This will free you to look at the situation as a powerful and capable person. This way, you have the ability to modify the circumstances (in large or small ways), making it easier to make decisions in line with your intentions next time around. And that is the whole point.

Change Your Story, Change Your Results
Motivation is not something you find or lose, have or don't have. It is the product of how you see yourself in the world: active or passive, effective or ineffective, powerful or victimized, normal or pathological. If you want to be able to motivate yourself, you need to begin seeing yourself as active, effective, powerful, and normal.

There are many situations that can push you strongly in one direction or the other. If you tend to see yourself as helpless victim, this is probably because at some formative point, you were victimized and helpless to prevent it. If you feel powerless to manage your own feelings and soothe yourself, you probably didn't have much help learning how to do that when you were young.

But history is not destiny. From a psychological point of view, emotional "reality" is the product of whatever story you tell yourself about how things are and why you are the way you are. If you want (or need) to change your reality, then change the story you are telling yourself. This does not mean denying or ignoring your past or present circumstances, or inventing a nice fairy tale to take their places. If you are a single parent with a full-time job, a person with major medical or emotional issues to contend with, or someone who is so large that physical activity is very difficult, this will be harder for you than for some others. You need to acknowledge that and be realistic about the changes you can hope to make and how easily you can make them. But you CAN rewrite your story so that these circumstances are not the determining factor in your success or failure. Your new story can be about how your creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance enable you to find full or partial solutions to these challenges, and to do the best that you can with what you've got to work with.

The story you are telling yourself at any moment is the foundation of your motivation, or lack of it. Make sure you are telling yourself the story you need to hear. And the best way to really come to believe your story is to see it come true in the small, well-chosen steps you take every day.