Motivation Articles

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation

Understanding Motivation

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The second most common cause of a motivational slump is expecting yourself to be perfect. The idea that anyone can (or should) never overeat or never skip a workout is a form of false pride. Why would anyone think that she'll be the first human being in history to pull this off, or that if you don't, you must be a miserable failure? The emotional upset of failed perfectionism can make it virtually impossible to stay motivated.

If you're holding yourself to a standard of perfection, or verbally abusing yourself for those bad days, give yourself a break. You must accept the fact that, along with the rest of us, sometimes your human appetites or feelings are going to win out over your good intentions—and it's NOT that big of a deal. Allow these occasions to teach you more about yourself, so that you can learn to do things differently.

But this learning won't happen if you spend your time and energy obsessing about your slip-ups, or getting down on yourself. That kind of useless self-abuse is just a smokescreen you are using to avoid your real responsibilities and opportunities. It is the polar opposite of honest self-appraisal, no matter how “true” or “real” it might feel to you. These may seem like harsh words, but getting past this problem is really critical to success. Trust me, I had to learn this the hard way, and that cost me a lot of painful years and wasted effort. So, save yourself a lot of grief, and learn how to keep things in perspective and avoid unnecessary drama.

You've learned what motivation really is—taking responsibility for conscious actions—and how to prevent it from waning. The next article in this series will help you build up that much needed motivation and keep it for the long haul.
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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
  • IAMFITBETTY
    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
  • MSYVETTEM
    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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