I’ll start out by saying that this article is largely inspired by hearing James Smith talk about this subject. The importance of identifying (de)motivators instead of motivators never really hit home until I heard, or read, what James Smith had to say about it. I honestly can’t remember if I read it in one of his books or heard it on his podcast. Mr. Smith, the well-known English PT with a great first name, has been an inspiration to me for some time now. I strongly encourage people to seek out his posts, books, and podcasts. I also warn you that he is rather foul mouthed. If you don’t mind that, great! He is a very good source for information and perspective. If you do mind that sort of thing, or just don’t want to bother searching him out, that’s fine too, there other people saying the same kinds of things he is saying. And I plan to be one of them.
So, on to the point of this article. Things that motivate us versus things that demotivate us. Not gonna lie, I thought at first that this was kind of a silly distinction to make. After all, being “de-motivated” is just suffering from the lack of motivation, right? Like darkness is the absence of light, being unmotivated is lacking motivation. But that’s the thing, I’m not talking about (un)motivation, the lack of it. I’m talking about (de)motivation, the diminishing of the motivation that we have. I know you have experienced that surge of energetic intent when you are planning to do something, and you’ve also experienced how hard it is to translate that intent into action. If you’ve managed to turn intent into action, then you know how hard it is to keep that same energy day after day. You’ll be familiar with wanting to keep pushing forward, but utterly lack the energy or motivation to actually do what you were once so excited about. You may be reading this and thinking about your fitness goals, your exercise routine, sticking to a diet, a project at work, starting a new venture, or the to-do list at home. It doesn’t matter, we are talking about the same issue in all these situations. Most of us listen to music with a good beat in order to find the right mindset before a workout, we read self-help books to inspire us and give us perspective, we seek out Instagram accounts that promote healthy eating and inventive recipes to bolster our dying drive to stick to our diet. I’m included in the “most of us”, though a questionable dosage of caffeine will do as much or more for my workout prep than music will. These are all great ways to motivate ourselves. But does it seem like we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to recharge our motivation? We leverage books, music, social media, and internal arguments just to stay ahead of the compulsion to put it off or quit. So here is a crucial question, what’s draining your motivation in the first place? This will be different for each of us, so you’ll want to give this some thought. That being said, there are a lot of common de-motivators that effect a great many of us. Let’s start with dissecting the daily struggles of an average person. How about the biggest thief of motivation? Tiredness. If you’re not getting enough sleep you’re not going to feel like working out or being productive in any way. Perspective is also deeply effected by lack of sleep. Everything seems worse, negative emotions are stronger, obstacles get bigger, and goals move further out of sight. Barring the possibility that you are an insomniac that needs medical intervention, this is something that you probably have control over. Take a nap. Go to bed earlier. Invest in a good mattress, develop an evening routine that winds you down instead of up, make it a priority. And if you are an insomniac, go to the doctor, seek help, work on it. There may not be an easy or quick fix for you, it may take awhile to get it sorted out, but it’s worth trying. I’m serious, I can’t stress enough how important adequate sleep is to our performance, recovery, fat loss, muscle growth, mood, mental health, outlook on life, and success in relationships. If being tired is de-motivating you, sit down, think it through, and strategize on how to remove this from the equation. Another possible reason for chronic fatigue is food related. Too much of a calorie deficit, depriving your body of vital nutrients and fueling carbohydrates, is a sure way to deplete your energy stores and sabotage yourself. Fortunately, the fix for this is quite simple. It should be said that overeating can also cause fatigue. Giving your body what it needs, no more and no less, is a simple enough concept, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. You are not stupid if you are unsure, especially when diet fads are much easier to find than real help. There is help out there though, lifestypersonalfitness.com might be a good place to start *wink*. Another de-motivator that makes itself known on a daily basis is lack of time. Not enough time to go to the gym, or not enough time to find a healthy option for lunch, or whatever the case might be. Now, I can’t give you the key to literally grant you more time. There is no way to a 30 hour day, and there is probably no way to change your daily reality of work, home, and family obligations. I’ll be clear now, I don’t think neglecting your work, or especially your family, to focus more on your fitness is an option. Remember, health is about more than what you eat or the hours you put into working out, its also your relationships and mental well-being. The only thing that can give you more time is eliminating time waste. If you have goals that you’re not finding time to focus on, but you spend hours a day watching tv or scrolling on your phone, then you are allowing these de-motivators to rob you of success and happiness. Now, some of you will have kids to consider, they will take up a lot of your time and attention, and they should. If you know me, you know that I haven’t raised kids. I’m upfront about that when I talk to people about making time around their children’s schedules. But I do know many friends, family, and clients who have made it work. I’ve seen parents trade off watching the kids and getting a workout in, and that’s assuming that you don’t have a gym near you that offers daycare. The point is, if you want more time, make a plan. You will almost never get anything done in life by accident, there will never be a perfect time, things are not going to slow down, count on it. Making changes for the better, getting what you want, and achieving your goals will always be hard and inconvenient. The only way to overcome these daily de-motivators are to get enough sleep, give your body what it needs, and make a plan.
Unfortunately, these are not the only things that drain our will and drive. Most of us also are constantly subject to attacks on our emotions and psyches. Pretty much all of us, young and not as young, are exposed to social media daily. Some of you may make good use of social media, you may be a part of supportive groups, perhaps you learn new things on the reg, you keep apprised of the lives of family members you don’t often see. But you cannot avoid also being exposed to a lot of negative things as well. The online family feuds, not talking about the game show. The political back and forth, I don’t care what side you’re on, it’s mostly all hateful and serves no good purpose. And if you’re fitness minded, you undoubtedly get a lot of fitness related content. By now, we all know that our phones listen to us, so even if you don’t actively search for health or fitness, it only takes a few key words spoken near our devices for it to start showing up in our feeds. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t 100% bad, but the thing to keep in mind is that you are going to get both the good and the bad, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. The worst de-motivators on social media are disguised as examples healthy living and success. They are dressed up as newly discovered methods and products that are guaranteed to work, and often in very little time and with very little effort. Fitness models, celebrities, and many trainers post enough shirtless ab and booty pics every day to overwhelm a landfill, which is exactly where they belong. The people posing for these pictures might be, and probably are, taking loads of supplements (legal and illegal), going under the knife, and photoshopping. Even if they are not doing all that, they are starving themselves and doing little else with their life other than counting calories and working out. All in a ploy to get lean enough for a couple weeks of peak condition so that they can take that perfect pic. I’m a live and let live kind of person for the most part, but I do have an issue with this, and here is why. Millions of people see these pics, and only these pics, without every seeing what goes on behind the scenes to create them. Worse, many will see these people and how fit they are, and they will trust their bad advice. But taking steroids and starving yourself doesn’t make you an expert in the field of fitness any more than having a big belly and growing a beard makes you Santa. It’s discouraging to be told that the right coffee, tea or pill is all that it takes. It never seems to work for you, what’s wrong with you? It’s frustrating that people are supposedly getting six packs with 20 minute workouts 3 days a week… in only a few months. And you’re not there yet? With the hours and months that you’ve put in? It’s not hard to see how de-motivating this is. But most of it isn’t even true. Still, the most damaging thing to our motivation is comparing ourselves to someone else, or where we are at to where we want to be. You’re not trying to become someone else, you’re becoming the best version of yourself. There is no deadline to be the best you, because growth and improvement never ends. So, make your needs a priority. Approach everything with purpose, knowing that nothing happens by accident. Instead of stressing about the end goal, find joy in the process. And, as always, a body at rest will stay at rest. So keep moving, make it a lifestyle.
P.S. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own, and you can have help with motivation too. I’ve got plenty more to say, so follow me on Facebook and Instagram or check out lifestylepersonalfitness.com.