Monday, August 6, 2007

motivation in three easy steps, or "turning up the heat"

Originally uploaded by misslissa13

I have no idea how to sustain motivation, nor I do not know how many steps it takes. What I do know is that it is not always easy and it is time for me to turn up the heat with a fire under my ass. Motivation has been something that ebbs and flows in my life, and as I have mentioned before, I am my own worst enemy. This is true in my motivation as well. So here I am, exploring what motivation is, what my motivations are and why I let myself backslide in reaching my goals.

The best (or I should say, the one I like best) definition I discovered reads as follows:

1. the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior; "we did not understand his motivation"; "he acted with the best of motives"
2. the condition of being motivated; "his motivation was at a high level"
3. the act of motivating; providing incentive*

Motivation is the stimuli, the the thing that stimulates us into doing things to obtain our goals. Ideally, we utilize both internal and external stimuli. One could surmise that the more motivation we have, the more apt we are to moving. For instance, if the goal is safety, a bug being poked by a little boy's finger will begin to run and scurry away. But a bug who is being poked, having a magnifying glass concentrate sunlight on it's tail and a shoe stomping down on the ground behind it will haul ass to get away. The internal is the innate desire to be safe, the external is that pain-in-neck little child taunting the heck out of it are Buggy's motivational factors. It could be said, too, that the internal motivations are more powerful (or perhaps more vital) than the external. If Buggy had really strong internal motivation, he would have turned the other way when he eyed Little Johnny come out of the house, keeping himself out of harms way entirely. We are more likely to reach and, more importantly, stay at a goal, if it is for our own reasons. If the goal is jogging daily and you do it to win a race and get a trophy, once that race is won, that main motivation is gone and the jogging daily has lost it's fire. If the mindset is tweaked, the results can be longer lasting. Internal motivation: the good feeling of the "runner's high", the increased energy level, long-term heart health, feeling good about ourselves when feeling fit....these continue even after the external motivation has passed.

Now comes the personal part of this. Being the "over doer" that I am (Not an overachiever, that would imply perfectionism. I just like doing lots of things most of the time.), I usually have a laundry list of goals I am working towards, big and small, short and long-term. Here's a taste: Getting another associates degree, getting into a PhD program, going through and organizing paperwork, buying a house with a yard, getting married, having a baby, paying down my debt, getting a second job, restoring a car, visiting at least 40 of the States, traveling to other countries, re-learning how to fold paper cranes, setting up a good system for coupon organization, learning to speak Spanish fluently, start painting again, teach American Sign Language, get down to my goal weight, teach college level classes, get my professional licensure.......I could go on, but I will spare you the eye strain.

I'll examine a goal that many people have and in the process openly discuss something that makes me uncomfortable: my weight loss goal. (Um, the goal doesn't make me uncomfortable, it's the disappointment in my lack of achieving this goal at this point that does...not to mention tight waistbands...ooooph..not comfy!)

External motivations:

Photos at my brother's wedding in October

Greg's friends' wedding in September

Kudos from loved ones

Not getting "criticized" by people who are important to me. Not really criticized, more like people pointing out the obvious, "Wow, did you put on some weight?" or "Should you really be eating that?" or "Aren't you on a diet?" Yeah, all questions that irritate and make me want to go into Defiant Adolescent Mode and act all "I'll show you" while stuffing my face with a HoHo (Well not a hoho with the chocolate allergy thing. It just sounded good.)

Getting those "Damn girl! You look good!" reactions from people.

Being able to buy a new wardrobe. Not that I like to shop, but it would be nice to buy some higher quality threads and have another reason to spend the money.

Supporting/getting support from others with the same goal.

Soliciting support from loved ones in the form of being accountable for my progress or lack there of and for words of encouragement.

Internal motivations:

Having more energy

Feeling better in my own skin/clothes

Increased self-confidence

Less strain on my back/joints

More ease in movement (Maybe even more bendy in yoga)

Less impact on my knees when jogging

General health improvement

Lower cholesterol (It's not high, but I want to bring it down lower than it is.)

Feeling proud of myself for accomplishing another goal

Feeling sexier

I am capable of reaching this goal since I have done it before

Feeling beautiful on the outside

Sleeping better

Having more strength and endurance to bike, hike, jog, join a competitive sports team again, etc.

Feed my competitive side

To sustain my motivation, I am going to use this list to remind myself why I want it. I will print it, add to it and carry it with me. I will post it on the refrigerator (after I complete the goal of "cleaning off the front of the refrigerator" of course) and on the bathroom wall so I see it every day. I will request that Greg exercise with me and help me stay focused. I will again set up a visual representation of my progress along the way and put this on the fridge as well. I will set up mini-goals to accomplish along the way (exercising X number of times a week, doing something physical daily, celebrating each five pound loss, entering the "healthy weight range", etc.)

I swallowed my pride (which has zero calories!) and stepped on the scale this morning. For my two months of ignoring my motivational stimuli, I packed on 9 (count 'em, nine) pounds from my former plateau point. This is more motivation for me! So, my current goal is to drop a measly 39 pounds. I can do this and I will. I am feeling motivated!

Next: Exploring the reasons for losing motivation.

*American Psychological Association (APA):
motivation. (n.d.). WordNet® 3.0. Retrieved August 06, 2007, from website:

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