Motivation Articles

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation

Understanding Motivation


Motivation Killer #1: Unrealistic Expectations
The most common cause of disappearing motivation is unrealistic expectations. When you have your hopes set on one thing (like seeing the number on the scale go down), but something else happens instead (the number doesn't change or it goes up), of course it's difficult to keep on doing what doesn't seem to be working for you. That's normal, and it's exactly how you're supposed to feel. These feelings help you avoid doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to get different results.

But this natural reaction becomes problematic when the result you're hoping for isn't likely to happen, like seeing predictable and consistent changes in your weight every week; or expecting to go from confirmed couch potato to exercise maven by sheer force of will, without paying your dues.

So, if your motivation is lagging because you're not getting the results you expect, check to see whether your expectations are realistic or not.

Here is what you SHOULD expect when it comes to weight loss:
  • Weight loss is NOT orderly or predictable. Shedding pounds is only one of many healthy changes your body undergoes when you decrease your caloric intake and/or increase your activity level. A lower number on the scale may be the least important of these changes, even though it may seem to be the most important. Every body will respond differently. You may lose weight easily and quickly at first while your friend will have to wait weeks or months to lose that first couple of pounds. For others, weight loss may come in waves. All of this is perfectly normal. 
  • Weight loss is NOT a simple calculation. Although we talk about weight loss in terms of numbers—calories in versus calories out—your body is not a calculator and it doesn't operate like a checking account. It is a complex, living organism with many needs and priorities to juggle, and difficulties to overcome (poor habits and thought patterns). A classic example of this complexity is how the stress you experience when your body doesn’t meet your weight loss expectations actually increases fat storage. There is a connection between your mind and your body. Instead of solely focusing on the scale, you need to take a comprehensive view of this process of change and work hard to keep your mind from getting in the way.
  • Focus on what you can actually control—what you eat and how much you exercise. You will lose weight if you do your part, and it will probably occur at the expected rate. (When you get to your goal and look back at the process, you probably will have lost at the rate of 1-2 pounds per week, on average.) That's what happened for me, over the 18 months it took me to lose 150 pounds. Those weeks where nothing changed, or I actually went backwards, drove me crazy and sapped my motivation until I finally realized I was focusing on the wrong things. When I started focusing on the small, positive changes I was making in my diet and in my capacity to exercise, life became easier and more rewarding. That, I believe, is our role in this process. The rest is not up to you, and trying to control what you can't control is a prescription for failure.
Motivation Killer #2: Perfectionism
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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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