Tag Archives: Strategies

Motivation: Getting beyond, “If Only”

 

 

A Lack of motivation can seem like a blank, insurmountable wall
A Lack of motivation can seem like a blank, insurmountable wall

What stands between many people and their goals, dreams, or hopes is a lack of motivation, a seemingly insurmountable, blank wall that they must climb in order to reach the top.  As a personal trainer, I see people clawing against their lack of motivation every day.  They constantly search for a way to achieve their goals. They look on-line, read books,  try all manner of diets and supplements. Time and time again they try but never seem to succeed.

Why can’t they find what they’re looking for? What are they missing? I believe their main error is in thinking that motivation exists outside themselves. Looking for motivation outside yourself is as misplaced a hope as looking for an external source of happiness. It doesn’t exist.

You see, another word for motivation is desire, and when it comes to reaching goals, there’s great truth in the simple phrase, “You gotta want it.” And if the outcome you’re seeking is difficult or requires life-long effort–you gotta want it bad. There is no program or supplement that can fuel that hungry inner fire of need. The food for that flame comes from your own heart.

So now what? What can I or anyone say to a client, friend, or family member who struggles with finding their deepest, elusive drive? First, one needs to carefully feel out their reasons for wanting to change in the first place. The one who wants to change needs to peel away the onion skins of “why” in order to discover her deepest reasons.

It goes like this:

Why do you want to lose 20 pounds? To look and feel better. Why do you want to look and feel better? So I can feel more attractive for my wife and can play more with my children. Why do you want to feel more attractive for your wife and play with your children? I want a better relationship with them.  Ah. Now, there’s a solid reason.

The thing is, if you’re trying to be healthier and lose body fat, are you really motivated by, “I want to weigh one-hundred and eighty pounds and have fifteen percent body-fat?” Who cares! What you need is to know what that’s going to do for you. Are you lonely and want more friends? Do you feel that playing ultimate Frisbee with your office mates will help, but you can’t because you’re fifty pounds overweight and your knees constantly hurt? Then let that need for friendship be your drive to losing weight and making the necessary changes to your behavior.

And there are behavioral changes that will need to be made. Most people are in their current state due to behaviors,  and the way out of that current state are new behaviors. Once you’ve found an inspiring reason to move toward your goal and have lit that internal fire, then you start the work of breaking down the steps that will continue to feed that flame.

The thing is that we can’t feel our way into behaving differently. We have to behave our way into feeling differently. It’s a mistake to think of our emotional state as the cause of, rather than the effect of, our actions and environment. Emotional states can drive behaviors, but for control of your life–turn that around.

For me, evidence of the relationship between behavior and emotions appears whenever I’m about to do a workout and I’m feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and like maybe I should put it off until I feel better. Those feelings come from outside influences and are transient. Dozens of times I’ve felt like that and when I pushed past them and did the workout, about five or ten minutes into the session, I started to feel more energized, more awake, happier. And I always left the gym in a new state of mind. This pushing past emotional blocks is a necessary skill to reaching any goal in many domains of  life.

Need to feel differently? First, you must act differently. It almost never works the other way around.

 

 

Orbits

outer-space
Am I in the “Goldilocks Zone” where life is best sustained, or am I orbiting in futility?

 

It’s a new year, and for me at least, it seems that here at the beginning of our solar merry-go-round, I find myself looking back along the arc of our planet’s past orbit. What am I hoping to see? To be metaphorical, I’m looking for what I myself have been orbiting. What I’ve done with my resources, how have those actions improved my life and the lives of my loved ones, and has my life’s work continued to nurture what I value?  Am I in the “Goldilocks Zone” where life is best sustained, or am I orbiting in futility?

This is very important to me.

Just like you, I only have a limited amount of time, energy, and attentiveness. Those are the foundational resources of my life, of everyone’s life, and I want to invest them well and wisely.  I strive to make sure I use those resources in places that advance my dreams and keep my spirit lifted. I want to use them in places where I feel like I’m respected and valued, and where the accomplishments I achieve advance not only me, but others as well. Instead of being, as Meghan Trainor sings, “all about that bass,” I’m all about that service and that is my primary orbit.

Every segment of my life, as delineated by my occupations, has been in some way about service: twenty years in the military, going to college and becoming a teacher, guiding people in the outdoors, being a trainer. All of these are service occupations. That’s what I love to do.

In the new year, I am also looking ahead for what new orbit can I place my service in or what can I do to improve what I am currently doing.  The finger I keep on the pulse of the fitness industry is feeling out new ways for people to reach deeper within themselves and discover the pathways for reaching their dreams. And those dreams are not really about looking good. They are about being healthy, more energetic, happier, and more adventurous. These are all things I want I want my solar system of self and loved ones to revolve around, and I find that living a healthy life is a way to gain them.

Which brings up an unusual point. People see me as a personal trainer and often think that exercise is the central orbit of my life, but that isn’t true. Exercise is not one of my orbits, nor does it fulfill my life—it is a means to living fully. The way I want to live and the achievements I want to leave behind as a memorial, are not direct results of my exercise, eating and sleep habits. Those are tools that create a body more capable of achieving my dreams.

Something wonderful
What’s going to happen? Something wonderful.

During this Year’s infancy, I urge everyone to move beyond their habits, and turn their attention to the values they have chosen to orbit. The why’s behind their hopes and dreams. Take the poet, Rainer Rilke’s, famous advice about “living the questions,” and carry into the New Year a pilgrim’s spirit:

• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of fluidity? To be comfortable with uncertainty is to gain a great peace.
• What is my next challenge in daring to grow as a human?
• How can I open myself to the beauty of nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What new creation waits to be born in and through me?

Once your eye turns inward, you can begin to discover the values behind your orbits. “How do I spend my time? Why do I value spending it in that way? When did I give so much meaning to food? Why? When did I give so much value to watching TV? Sporting events?” Seriously ask, “Is it really necessary? Is the way I spend my time good for me and my family? Does it keep me from my dreams?  Answering these questions are as important, if not more important, than a gym membership or changing your diet. Discover what you’re orbiting and why. The answers are what will keep your diet, exercise, and health, permanent.

Nothing? or Something

Most of the people I talk to day to day cite “not having enough time” as the biggest problem with getting into the gym.  If you’re short on time, please tell me you’re not a member of that group who throw’s up their hands and gives up. I can accept that time is an issue, but I don’t believe it’s insurmountable. Here are a couple of strategies that can be used to fight time-loss.

When you think of a workout, what comes to mind? Ninety minutes in the gym, forty-five minutes of weights followed by an hour of cardio? Perhaps you need to redefine your idea of a “workout.” What if you took the time element, the one that’s in shortage, and made it less imposing? Say, 5-10 minutes. What if, instead of one 30 minute session, you did three ten-minute sessions? Could you make that work? Give it a little thought, and come up with a ten minute workout you could do anywhere. Then–go for it. There is no rule that a workout “has” to be a certain length. There is an optimum length that fits your goals, but if you can’t do the time–change the workout. Ten minutes busting butt beats an hour of nothing.

A quick side note about time. If you are one of those who regularly finds himself without enough time, you really need to ask, “Why?” When you find yourself getting less sleep, not eating healthy foods, and failing to exercise, there’s a problem. All of those things are high on the hierarchy of needs and are necessary to good health.  Recently, I read a book about Minimalism and here’s a passage I want to share. It goes out to anyone who says they don’t have enough time:

“Between work and attending my children’s sporting events, I no longer had time for an outside life: no time to read, no time to relax, no time for closer relationships. I didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee with a friend, to listen to his stories. I realized that if I didn’t control my time, I relinquished control of my life. It was a shocking realization.”

I recommend that you restore your control over life–before lesser concerns totally or partially steal that life from you. Give it some serious thought, and remember, preserving the quality of your life is not selfish–especially if others rely on your being at your healthiest.

Another big flaw in many people’s workout habits is the “all or nothing” syndrome. If they can’t get a full workout in they don’t workout at all, and therefore, due to this perfectionism, no exercise gets done. Why does anyone have to do the perfect workout every time? The short answer is–they don’t. Just last week, I was running behind and didn’t have a long enough block of time to complete an entire workout. So, I split it into two parts. I did 30 minutes immediately and another 30 minutes later in the day. I don’t want to do that all the time, but it worked out fine. Sometimes I skip my stretching regimen. Does it slow my recovery process? Yes, a little, but at least I get the workout in.

There is a saying in the fitness world that goes along with this line of thinking. The saying is, “If time is a problem, then intensity is the solution.” You see, there’s something called the laws of physics. If you work out with low intensity for an hour and burn 500 calories, you can work out with higher intensity for thirty minutes and expend an equal number of calories. Neat, huh? So, if time’s a problem…Intensity is your solution.

Both of these strategies have to do with redefining what has been normally been thought of as a workout. A definition isn’t what keeps you in shape–working out does. So, rather than stick to old ideas, switch it up. Put aside the “all or nothing attitude” of perfectionism and get done what you can–no matter what–something– beats nothing at all. Remember, the desire for change is knocking on your door and that all-or-nothing thinking — rarely gets us “all.” It usually gets us “nothing.”