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Staying Motivated: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivators

Staying Motivated: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivators

Staying Motivated When the Going Gets Tough

Achieving your health and fitness goals relies heavily on your ability to stay motivated throughout the journey. Often, we set ambitious targets, but the path to reaching them can seem overwhelming. Understanding what drives you and maintaining your motivation can make all the difference. Let's explore how you can keep your motivation high, even when the going gets tough.

Understanding Motivation: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic

Motivation comes in two primary forms: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are external rewards or outcomes you seek, such as losing weight to fit into a favorite outfit or to receive praise from others. These goals are future-oriented and often tangible. While they can be powerful, they might not be enough to sustain long-term commitment on their own.

Intrinsic motivators, on the other hand, stem from internal desires and personal satisfaction. These motivators are about finding joy and meaning in the activities themselves. For instance, you might want to exercise because it boosts your mood, enhances your energy levels, or makes you feel more confident. Intrinsic motivation is often more sustainable because it is directly tied to your personal fulfillment and immediate rewards.

Balancing Both Motivators

While it's beneficial to have extrinsic goals, anchoring your efforts in intrinsic motivation can help you stay committed. Identify what truly inspires you on a deeper level. Why do you want to achieve your health goals? Is it to feel more vibrant, to improve your mental health, or to be able to enjoy activities with your loved ones? Keeping these intrinsic reasons at the forefront can help you push through challenging times.

One of my clients, Linda, initially started working out with the goal of losing 30 pounds. This extrinsic motivator was important to her, but she soon discovered that the sense of accomplishment she felt after each workout and the boost in her energy levels were even more motivating. These intrinsic rewards kept her going, even on days when the scale didn't show much progress.

Setting and Measuring Success

How you measure your progress can significantly impact your motivation. If you focus solely on extrinsic measures like the number on the scale, you might miss other important signs of success. Health improvements often manifest in various ways, such as increased stamina, better sleep, improved mood, and more energy.

Set realistic and varied benchmarks for success. Celebrate non-scale victories like being able to climb stairs without getting winded, having more flexibility, or feeling more focused throughout the day. These smaller, more immediate rewards can keep you motivated and provide positive reinforcement as you work towards your larger goals.

John, a software developer sitting behind a desk for a living, had been struggling with knee pain for years. His initial goal was to lose weight to reduce the pressure on his joints. However, as he began exercising regularly, he noticed other benefits such as improved mobility and reduced pain across a variety of activities. Celebrating these non-scale victories kept John motivated and reminded him that his efforts were making a difference, even if the weight loss was slower than he had hoped. The motivation to keep going worked - John eventually lost 45lbs, and he says he almost doesn't think about his knees anymore.

Setting Realistic Goals

One of the keys to maintaining motivation is setting realistic and achievable goals. Instead of aiming for drastic changes, break down your larger goals into smaller, manageable steps. For example, rather than setting a goal to lose 50 pounds in six months, focus on losing 1-2 pounds per week. This makes the goal more attainable and allows you to celebrate small wins along the way.

Additionally, recognize and celebrate each milestone you reach. Whether it's a new personal record in your workouts, sticking to your meal plan for a week, or simply feeling more energetic, acknowledging these achievements can boost your motivation and reinforce your commitment to your goals.

Sarah, a busy mom, found it challenging to stick to a workout routine. We set a goal for her to complete three 30-minute workouts a week. By setting this realistic goal, Sarah found it easier to fit exercise into her schedule. Each time she completed a workout, she felt a sense of accomplishment that motivated her to keep going.

Building a Support Network

Having a supportive network can make a significant difference in your motivation. Surround yourself with people who encourage and uplift you, whether they're friends, family members, or fellow fitness enthusiasts. Share your goals with them and ask for their support. They can provide accountability, share in your victories, and offer encouragement when you're feeling down.

Professional support can also be invaluable. Consider working with a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, or wellness coach who can provide expert guidance, personalized plans, and ongoing support. These professionals can help you navigate challenges, stay on track, and adjust your goals as needed.

Adapting to Challenges

Life is full of unexpected challenges, and it's important to remain flexible and adaptable. If you encounter setbacks, don't view them as failures. Instead, see them as opportunities to learn and grow. If you miss a workout or have an off day with your eating, acknowledge it, forgive yourself, and move forward. Maintaining a positive and flexible mindset will help you stay resilient and committed to your long-term goals.

Finding Joy in the Process

Enjoying the journey is crucial for sustaining motivation. Engage in activities that you love and look forward to. Whether it's dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport, finding enjoyable ways to stay active can make a big difference. Incorporate variety into your routine to keep things interesting and prevent boredom.

My long time friend Jessica discovered a love for water aerobics. Other fitness activities hadn't stuck, but the social aspect of the classes and the fun, low-impact exercises kept her engaged and looking forward to each session. This newfound joy in exercise helped her stay consistent and motivated.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a sustainable lifestyle change that you can maintain over the long term. By focusing on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, setting realistic goals, building a supportive network, adapting to challenges, and finding joy in the process, you can stay motivated even when the going gets tough. Add these strategies to your daily routine, and you're definitely going to feel the difference!

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