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.
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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.

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