Motivation Articles

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation

Understanding Motivation

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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

  • Thank you Dean, a great article as usual! Lots of food of thought and lots of things I'm definitely 'guilt' of when it comes to beating myself up for mistakes and losing motivation after some steps back... I'm definitely ready to get back on track now! - 5/24/2016 11:04:23 AM
  • Perfection was always my problem; expected perfection and when that didn't happen it would demoralize me. This time I realized that perfection would never happen and the way eat to lose weight now maintain would be like life with some ups and downs. Ready a great Spark quote "Persistence not perfection." - 5/8/2016 9:16:16 AM
  • I see the operative words here are: choices, decisions, & responsibility; and do apply in LIFE. - 2/9/2016 4:42:13 PM
  • I think I get it!!!
    Don't get hung up on mistakes, get over it and carry on! Focus on all of the great things you have done, and take responsibility for the good and bad. - 2/8/2016 8:14:20 PM
  • Great article! Both unrealistic expectations and an all or nothing approach to perfectionism has been the cause of so many failed attempts at weight loss for me. Trying to keep a realistic goal in mind with progress, not perfections, is really my focus this time around and will hopefully be what it takes to reach my goals. - 2/5/2016 10:29:27 AM
  • Wow! I really needed to read this today! I have felt so defeated this weekend. It has been a celebration weekend for me and the scale has shown it. I felt like such a failure for eating a nice meal and having a piece of cake. I thought if I can't indulge occasionally without the scale reflecting 4 pounds, how will I ever be able to do this for the long haul? Thank you for the new motivation! - 1/31/2016 9:03:20 AM
  • This post REALLY nailed it. I was just writing a blog about the 'end of the week' desperation and stress that is killing my motivation. Thursday and Friday are killers for me. Great information - 1/30/2016 12:09:26 PM
  • Thank you for the wonderful information. I have been doing evertyhing in the article and it nice to re-read the information! - 1/24/2016 9:14:34 AM
  • I find that I am more successful when I am held accountable. Which is why I am here! - 1/1/2016 11:09:30 AM
    Hapless victim no longer!!! I WILL do 10 minutes of exercise every day!!! - 12/28/2015 8:42:55 AM
  • I was advised a couple of weeks ago that there is evidence of an old stroke on a cat scan that I had in July. This was confirmed on MRI last week. Doctor told me yesterday that the stroke was caused by hypertension. Needless to say, I've been highly motivated the last couple of weeks and I've brought my blood pressure down to normal range with medicine, diet and exercise. I'm putting sticky notes on my monitor, refrigerator and cabinets with the word "STROKE" in large, bold, capital letters, Perhaps this will serve to keep me motivated when I feel like I'm losing control. - 12/5/2015 4:22:35 PM
  • Being retired - it is so easy to just say "tomorrow I will........" But, as the saying goes, "tomorrow never comes"! So, when I want to wait until tomorrow, I just tell myself to just do it today, while I still have a today!!

    Great article, Dean. Thank you so much for sharing with the rest of us.
    barb - 12/5/2015 1:06:49 PM
  • 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

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