Motivation Articles

The Before-During-After Journal

The Write Way to Build Your Intrinsic Motivation

Do you often have trouble finding the motivation to stick to your exercise and nutrition goals? If so, then you might not be looking in the right place.

Experts who study motivation have long recognized two basic types of motivation:
  1. Extrinsic (external) motivation, when you are motivated primarily by external rewards and consequences, either positive or negative. When you pull yourself out of your nice, warm bed in the morning to go to work because you want (and need) that paycheck, your motivation is extrinsic—it’s the external reward (money) or consequence (getting fired) that provides the immediate motivation for getting up.
  2. Intrinsic (internal) motivation, when your motivation comes from the internal experience of pleasure, meaning, satisfaction, pride or other similar feelings. Imagine for a moment that you don’t really need that paycheck—you’ve won the lottery, or your spouse has just been promoted and you don’t need a second income any more. What would it take to get you out of bed every morning and off to work? Most likely, it would take some kind of intrinsic motivation.
So, why should the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation matter to you?

Because permanent weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the types of goals that depend heavily on intrinsic motivation. If you frequently experience motivational problems, you are probably relying on external rewards or consequences too much, and not doing enough to increase your internal motivation.

Some common signs that you may need to increase your intrinsic motivation include:
  • Depending too much on what the scale (or tape measure or the fit of your clothes) says; you feel motivated when your weight goes down, unmotivated when you gain or stay the same.
  • Constantly battling with yourself; under “normal” circumstances, you want to eat whatever and whenever, and your body just naturally gravitates toward the couch.
  • Feeling like exercise and healthy eating are hard work; you wouldn’t choose these routes if you didn’t need to lose weight.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait for intrinsic motivation to appear on its own, magically, or create it by sheer force of will. In fact, waiting for it to happen and trying to force it are sure ways to make sure it doesn’t improve at all. You have everything you need for intrinsic motivation right now. You just need to let yourself experience this fact. This will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the amount of misery, frustration, and suffering you experience along the way. Here’s one good tool you can use to get yourself moving in this direction.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›

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

  • DELAR1
  • This article hit dead on for me about being uncomfortable with change. I do need to be open and stop judging and becoming defeated. I think I will try this journal. Can't hurt. - 8/8/2014 10:15:20 PM
  • This is a great article that really got me thinking. I have lost 40 pounds, but keeping it off and continuing my healthy lifestyle journey has been a real struggle. I think this may be the impetus I need to start journaling. - 11/16/2013 8:43:19 AM
    Thank you, Dean Anderson, for this wonderful infomation---- Many can benefit from all this advice-- and I am truly appreciative! - 2/13/2013 1:10:09 PM
  • Great I am going to do this.Even when I was in school writing things down helped me do better. My motivation can always use a boost. - 10/3/2012 8:42:20 AM
  • I had previously read your article on " 4 Steps to Lasting Behavioral Change" and it lead me to this article. Both are excellent...I didn't know how to say it, but I needed that "internal" self awareness and self monitoring you describe. Starting a journal today to do just that! Thanks a million!!!!! - 6/13/2012 10:51:37 AM
  • So weird that I found this on the motivation page today because I started a journal this morning. I felt that I needed to write how I was feeling about my plateau and the stress I'm feeling from other things, and how they were compounding. This is a great suggestion, I'll incorporate it in! - 5/24/2012 12:33:02 PM
  • BUTTONS241
    Just what I needed. Well written. - 1/16/2012 11:50:39 AM
  • Been procrastinating getting my journal. NOT ANY MORE! Going out today to get a new small moleskin book with graphic pages and elastic closure band. Perfect for purse. I know this will work. - 12/11/2011 11:10:26 AM
  • This article is what I need right now. I am struggling with depression so cataloging what I feel about my own motivations will help me in the long run, I hope. - 5/10/2011 10:17:15 AM
  • I'm so "on this page" today! Thanks for your practical comments & for pointing in a useful direction to apply & make POSITIVE changes! - 11/15/2010 3:18:39 PM
  • Excellent article. I believe the mind is very powerful. If you continually say that you will NEVER lose the weight, I believe that you will not. Also his statement "find what works best for you" is great. - 11/2/2010 11:46:37 AM
  • Coach Dean, what did you do, crawl inside my ear and have a look inside my brain when I was napping?! How do you DO that??? Reckon I'll have to give this a try to shut the Dragon Lady up for good... :) - 5/12/2010 5:54:52 PM
  • This is an awesome article.....have kept journals however not been journalling lately....this has morivated me to re-start again so that I can be aware when the negative creeps in and do something about it so that it doesn't get a hold and pull me backwards..... - 5/11/2010 5:49:08 AM
  • Coach, this is perfect! I have the extrinsic because I need to keep my job, but intrinsic is my struggle. I am going to grab this and start tonight! - 3/6/2010 7:34:54 PM

x Lose 10 Pounds by November 15! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.