How to Cultivate Motivation that Will Last
Updated: Feb 19
Oh motivation, why have you forsaken me? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s felt this way in New Years past. I’d have my lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions to work out, eat healthy, get up early, meditate, etc. written out in my prettiest handwriting, my new workout clothes neatly folded in my drawers, my fridge stocked with healthy food, and an attitude of hope.
The first week or so was great. I’d think “This is it! I’m finally doing it! I’m finally going to be the person I want to be.” Then week two would come around and like clockwork, my old, unhealthy habits would commence. I’d choose my bed over the gym, late night binge eating would begin again, and I’d feel my hope slowly but surely dwindling away.
What I realize now is that I had a couple of major problems with my approach. First, the list of changes I expected myself to make all at once was unrealistically long. Second, I wasn’t cultivating the right type of motivation.
My motivation was very surface level. I wanted to be skinny because I thought that being skinny meant that people, especially boys, would think I was pretty, and I thought that people thinking I was pretty was the secret to happiness. Let me save you a lot of trouble and assure you that happiness is an inside job, no matter how “skinny” or “pretty” someone is on the outside. The appearance of your body will never ever make you truly happy at your core. We have to do inner, soul-level work to achieve that.
Anyway, this type of surface level motivation that I employed is called extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from sources outside of yourself, such as other people, and thrives off of external rewards. This type of motivation will only last in the short term.
All my other spiritual gals out there know that everything you’re searching for already resides within yourself. The solution is never an outside, external source. In my case, this outside source was other people’s opinions about how I looked, and the reward was someone commenting in person or on a social media post that I looked skinny.
A much more effective form of motivation is called intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself and thrives off of personal achievement, not external rewards. This is the kind that will last for the long haul. Intrinsic motivation is what I choose now, and it’s been a crucial catalyst to achieving my goals.
I no longer work out and eat healthy so other people will think I’m attractive. I do it because I’m grateful for my body, my mind, and everything they do for me day after day. Exercising and eating nutritious foods are my ways of showing love and respect for myself. I also do it because I know that living a healthy lifestyle is necessary for me to reach my fullest potential as a trainer and person in general. As an added bonus, I happened to achieve the physical appearance I desired, but it was not my main goal.
As you make your list of resolutions for 2020, I encourage you to keep the list short and put some deep thought into where your motivation is coming from. Are you doing these things for other people or material items? Or are you doing them because it’s what's truly best for you and your soul?