Motivation Articles

Mastering the Mysteries of Motivation - Part 2

Building & Maintaining 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!

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.

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Member Comments

  • This is great information! I needed to hear this.
  • Do what you can!
  • Do what you can!
  • FOXGLOVE999
    Another great article. We are responsible for our choices, sometimes they further our goals, sometimes not so much. That's okay. As long as we have more of the former than of the latter, we'll be okay.
  • Great articles (1&2) both gave me insight into my struggles with motivation and tools useful for rewriting my life story. Thanks!
  • These are very meaningful articles for me.
    I really appreciate the quality and accuracy of the information found in SP articles.
  • These two articles are exactly what I needed right now. Thank you! AJ
  • COASTAL6
    Thanks for sharing this article, It helped me a lot.
  • I tried to save it but it wouldn't let me. Great article.
  • "History is not Destiny"

    This was liberating phrase for me to read today, because it goes further than just weight loss. It's going to help me change how I see myself.

    Thank you for this article.
  • OK- This article really spoke to me, uh, except maybe the part about having to consider
    yourself "NORMAL". not, and I like that - what is normal after all? Conforming???
    WON'T DO IT! But I will continue to spread the SPARK and love this community!
  • just what I needed! it's official. I have now set an ongoing event in my calendar to read one motivational article every night at eight. This is the time I start to feel, who knows what, but it inevitably ends with my eating all the wrong things. Well, no more! I am proud that I have lost twenty pounds. instead of beating myself up for not being able to loose the last fifteen, I'm going to congratulate myself for having kept it off for three years! I will get there! Not beating myself up is good for starters!
  • "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."

    I think these are perhaps the most important words in both Motivation articles. *Change your personal story*!
  • I don't want to be normal. I want to be exceptional! Does that put me in the perfectionist category? I don't think so because, in my book, even exceptional people occationally stray from the ideal path, but then we get back!
  • You are, my friend, a genius! You have so perfectly nailed down not only the definition of motivation, but also the process of self talk and the source of feelings of powerlessness. I was vicitimized and bullied as a child, suffered severe depression several times in my life, and am now fighting habits that are affecting my weight and health. You have peeled my emotional onion, so to speak, with your words. THANK YOU!

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.