Motivation Articles

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation

Understanding Motivation

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!

What is Motivation?
Many people seem to think that "being motivated" means not having to struggle with opposing desires. Not so. It is our nature as human beings to pursue both the gratification of our senses (eating what we like when we want it) and the psychological gratification of achieving meaningful but more abstract goals (being healthy, fit or attractive). Both of these pursuits are necessary for our survival, both as individuals and as societies, and both are worthy of your loyalty. Judging one of these pursuits as superior to the other is to deny half of what and who you are, and set yourself up for endless inner conflict and turmoil.

At the same time, your loyalty cannot be blind or unthinking. In the realm of eating and food choices, the modern world (and often your own kitchen) is full of well-marketed, tasty foods that appeal to your innate desires (a sweet tooth and fondness for rich foods) but are also nutritional nightmares. As long as you and the world remain less than perfect, you will have to struggle with this conflict between immediate and long-term gratification. No amount of motivation will make it go away.

Viewing motivation as the ability to resist the lure of "bad" foods or overcome the appeal of lying on the couch will only lead to frustration and self-blame. Things go much better when you see motivation as the ability to give yourself the chance to make conscious decisions and take responsibility for these choices. Therefore, the main "enemy" of motivation is the tendency to see yourself as the hapless victim of forces (or urges) over which you have no control.

Your motivation will be as strong as the amount of effort you put into making your own decisions (regardless of what they might be) with conscious awareness. Your motivation will be weak when you consider yourself to be helpless against your own urges, feelings and desires, or a victim of circumstances beyond your control.

So what causes you to lose motivation in the first place? You may start a new nutrition or exercise program with excitement and full force, ready to succeed and reach new goals. At what point does that enthusiasm die? Here are two common patterns that will kill your motivation:
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • I really needed the reminder that "being motivated" does NOT mean "never being tempted." I tend to perfectionism, and this was a fabulous check-in with myself. Thank you, SparkPeople. - 11/10/2015 10:56:41 PM
    I needed this! - 11/7/2015 11:55:32 AM
  • IDIC0101
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I lost my motivation when the scale didn't move last week so... But I'm back now! - 10/21/2015 2:54:20 PM
  • Wow this article was just for me. Been beating myself up for both not exercising this week even through the pain and the scale not going down. WELL NO MORE Back on track. - 10/21/2015 2:13:04 PM
    It has been difficult to stay on track. Maintaining the motivation isn't hard just juggling priorities. Today I will get back on track. - 10/20/2015 8:43:49 AM
  • KFORST12
    Starting water exercises today. That should be better with my bad knee, - 10/6/2015 10:40:49 AM
    I couldn't agree more!! Trying to keep yourself motivated while beating yourself up is impossible!! All these articles have been so helpful and empowering. Thank you! - 10/5/2015 9:59:58 AM
    Great article! - 9/14/2015 8:02:41 PM
  • Dean Anderson, thank you. I joined SparkPeople to lose weight (and I am doing that), but am also becoming a better person in the process. Your articles are a key part of my transformation. I appreciate that you lived this and are sharing what you continue to live. - 9/4/2015 10:45:16 AM
  • Thank you Dean Anderson for this article. I woke up depressed and feeling like a failure. You put the spark back in my eyes. I was a hopeless perfectionist before reading this article. Thank you for helping me to see that I can recover from an error in judgement. I feel like I have been given the license to leave yesterday behind and look foward to today. I am in control. Thank you for reminding me that I am in control because before this article I felt powerless. - 4/18/2015 9:08:22 AM
  • Perfectionism is my biggest pitfall.
    If i have to miss a workout for any reason, I beat myself up over it and work doubly hard next time, often resulting in exhaustion or injury.
    So frustrating, not being able to let myself relax now and then and accept that there are just some days when life gets in the way and other things have to take priority.
    The worst of it is my poor husband has to suffer my low mood until I get my next workout in. - 4/12/2015 11:31:02 PM
  • WYATT18
    Just the article this "all or nothing" person needed today!! Thanks so much! - 4/11/2015 7:14:26 AM
    Great article. The inability to delay gratification is a huge and growing problem in the U.S. The constant victimization of the population is another, with 12 step programs for everything. Bringing us the message, that "it's not your fault, a higher power will relieve you". How ridiculous.
    - 10/5/2014 9:19:41 AM
    @awogen :
    on the top of the page, there is a "more" picture, on the right of Pininterest.
    Click on this "more" picture, then click on the heart. That's done ! the page will remain in your Spark favorites !
    Katarine - 9/8/2014 7:44:50 AM
  • I wish that Spark had a way to bookmark things on their page that you find particularly helpful. I'd like to mark this so I can read it regularly, but I can only bookmark it on my browser. - 6/9/2014 5:42:44 PM

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