Motivation Articles

The Before-During-After Journal

The Write Way to Build Your Intrinsic Motivation

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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.
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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 so much for a great article! I just heard a podcast about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and never thought part of my problem is that I look only for extrinsic motivation - fit into smaller clothes or scale number. You've helped to open my eyes to intrinsic motivation by keeping a BDA journal. - 1/20/2016 4:30:46 PM
  • Whether you're worried about calories, or your overall health, you should consider journaling anything regarding your health. Add how you feel after exercise, returning from a medical appointment, sleep, etc. - 1/19/2016 11:26:54 PM
  • ANGIE_E
    Another advantage of journaling is that you can more easily identify what works for you and what doesn't. I did really well with my nutrition several years ago and got really lean....then I fell off the proverbial wagon. I want to get back to where I was before and referring back to my journal entries at the time really helped me get back on track! - 1/18/2016 8:01:51 PM
  • Liked this...thanks... - 1/18/2016 1:46:20 PM
  • I am the person described at the beginning of the article. Surprising, because I had thought I was internally motivated. But yes, I want to give up a lot lately, both the exercise and on the right food. The food is more common for me, but I've always loved lifting weights if nothing else, so I'm definitely off track right now.

    So, I am going to try this journal, which may get me to focus, or think of my goals more often. In any case, I think it will help! Thanks for the great idea, Coach Anderson! - 1/18/2016 12:13:28 PM
  • This.....was a really good article. Thanks. - 11/1/2015 11:44:30 PM
  • KIMOOKI
    I didn't know this article has been on SparkPeople so long! I did discover the power of journaling and ritual (Twyla Tharp on creativity) when I committed to everyday activity until I turned 50- a bet I could do it (160 some odd days) with my daughter because she went to live in Japan after high school graduation and I pinky swore her to doing it. I did it. And I'll be 51 in 3 months, still going strong. My motivation turned intrinsic real fast, and I continuously monitor motivation(s). What amazing changes and recognition I've gotten, but not at all on the faster timetable I naively thought too many times. Worth it? yes. Hard work? some days more mental than -? Yes. But I did it and I need no real recognition for it. Intrinsic motivation met. - 11/1/2015 6:57:31 PM
  • Were you listening in on my lack-of-motivatio
    n conversation with my family last night??? (she says with a smile) I'm stuck in the downward spiral of I don't commit because I don't see results (because I don't commit..). I'm going to try the BDA journaling technique to see what patterns surface. - 11/1/2015 3:56:03 PM
  • I have read much about dieting over the years, but have never heard about a before-during-aft
    er journal. Love to learn something new. Thanks for the great article. - 11/1/2015 1:50:56 PM
  • I love this idea! Just found an online journal site and set it up and wrote my first entry. Thank you for sharing this today! - 11/1/2015 9:11:26 AM
  • OH, I always wonder what happened to Coach Dean. Is he still alive? So many changes on SP, and people just "disappear"?! - 11/1/2015 1:00:10 AM
  • BRIMAR56
    I love Dean Anderson's articles. Journaling works for me very well. I lost 25 pounds but put it back on because I got tired of "watching" it and I quit smoking. I joined Spark People to get motivated again. - 10/7/2015 6:47:51 PM
  • DELAR1
    WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE. NEW MEMBER WILL START TOMORROW WITH A JOURNAL - 3/7/2015 9:03:45 PM
  • 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

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