What is motivation and why does it fade so fast?
This is the question that people just like you have all the time when they’ve made their minds up to start a business, pick up a new hobby, change bad habits, or even lose weight and get healthier. I’ve heard people say, “Well, I made up my mind that I was going to do it and I was so excited and determined! I can’t figure out why I can’t make myself get up and do it now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Good news! Nothing is “wrong” with you.
And, at the same time, there is some stuff you still need to know and some areas where you can make improvements. There are 3 areas we need to clear up: 1) what is motivation, 2) the key players in motivation, and 3) how to keep motivation consistent.
1) What is motivation? – Motivation is a PROCESS that pushes you to ACT and engage in certain behaviors. So, while people may talk about motivation as a THING that just happens, it doesn’t. There is a whole process that is involved. This is what you miss when you are trying to understand you own motivation – you miss that it’s a process and just not a singular event.
2) Who are the key players in motivation? – Motivation first happens on a biological (physical body), cognitive (thinking), social (environment), and emotional (feelings) level. All together, these are the factors in the process that PUSH you to ACT. Second, in order to be activated or prompted to DO something, you need to have a GOAL in mind. With no goal in mind, you really don’t have a need or drive to DO anything.
Let’s look at an example. You are hungry (physical, emotional, cognitive and sometimes environmental sensation). You experience an urge (drive/need) to eat. Your main GOAL is to satisfy your hunger. You then DO something (action) about the hunger, which leads you to find something to EAT (action towards the goal)! You probably didn’t realize this process was happening this way, did you?
It doesn’t stop there…things may show up that get in the way of you being able to get to food as quickly as you would like (barriers). Because your hunger may be more intense on some days than others, you may either choose to wait to find food OR you do whatever it takes in that moment to satisfy that hunger. In those moments when you are more hungry and the hunger is more urgent, your DRIVE is going to be greater and you are going to PUSH harder and be more persistent towards your GOAL to satisfy this hunger.
Let’s tie this to weight loss & health – when you first decide to lose weight and change your behaviors to get healthier, you have this huge desire to do so and your mind is made up and the MOTIVATION is there. However, over time the motivation seems like it decreases a little and you start wondering what is wrong with you. Well, as we can see in the example, barriers probably get in the way (that you don’t have a game plan or GOALS to tackle) or the urgency to lose weight may have gone away. In either of these cases, if that happens, your need to take action towards your goals (the process of motivation) goes away. Hence, the lack of motivation!
3) How to keep motivation consistent. Goals, environmental and internal rewards, and back up goals! The reason you lose motivation or have finicky motivation is because you might not have any goals or reward systems set up. I’m talking about more than food as a reward… I’m saying constantly set small goals (lose 30 lbs in 30 days is not a small goal, btw) that can keep you in constant motion (emotional, cognitive, environmental, and biological sensations). Next, create steps and move towards those goals (action). Then, set up internal (sense of accomplishment and mastery) and external (extra 30 mins of television or new shirt) reward systems. Plan for barriers and things that get in the way. This is the process of motivation and how to keep it going.
The bottom line.
A constant practice of setting goals (ones you can actually reach) sets you up for continued action and motivation. The underlying processes that create motivation are the supporting cast to your drive, needs, and GOALS! If the GOALS and a sense of urgency and rewards are there…motivation will be there as well. So, if you have lost motivation, check and double check your goals, sense of urgency, and reward system. This little bit of insight might be just what you needed to keep going! Remember, nothing is wrong with you, you just might need to adjust your process.