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How do I build motivation?

Motivation can be built by the accomplishment of specific attainable goals, and being held accountable to others who will encourage you along the way.  

Darren Treasure, PhD
Sports Medicine
Motivation is a process and deals with the direction and intensity of behavior – what you choose to do and how hard you choose to do it. So, building motivation deals not only with the activities you choose to engage but also how hard you try at these activities. One of the strongest ways of building motivation is to increase your self-confidence in the behavior you are engaging. For example, if you are trying to build your motivation to be physically active it is important to focus on being successful at increasingly more difficult bouts of exercise. This process should be very gradual but over time you should be looking to increase the difficulty of the task. For example, the number of days you walk; the intensity you walk; the duration of your walk.  With each performance accomplishment, i.e., successful attempt, you will enhance your self-confidence and establish an “I can do this” mindset. Another way to enhance your self-confidence is to watch people similar to you be successful at the same activity you are attempting. You’ll find that the “if she can do it, I can do it” mind set is another powerful source of self-confidence that will help build motivation.      

A lot of factors influence the motivation to exercise and be healthy. We all exercise for different reasons that are geared towards bringing about a certain health and fitness goal. One of the best ways you can stay motivated over time is to take a moment before you even start and ask yourself "Why?"

"Why am I doing this?"

What is the motivating factor behind your decision to begin to exercise? Is it to lose weight? Lower your cholesterol? Be stronger, fitter, happier? Whatever your reasons are for starting, stop for one moment and ask yourself "Why?"

For example, is your "Why?" to lose weight so you look and feel great on the beach this summer?  Great! Now cut out a few pictures of the bathing suit you want to wear and put one up on the fridge. Maybe another in your wallet or anyplace you will see it often to remind you of why you got up before the sun to workout or why you chose salad and grilled chicken over lasagna.

Maybe you just got bad news that your cholesterol is 242. I hope your "Why?" is that you want to live a long healthy life amongst your family and friends. So with that in mind, get some Post-it Notes and put your healthy cholesterol goal number on it. Maybe your goal is 147? Ok, put one up on the fridge, one in your wallet, and have your loved ones text you "147." Heck, make your Facebook status, "On my way to 147!"

Do whatever is necessary, as often as necessary to remind yourself why you want this goal so badly. Once you ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" it will be easier to have a clear vision of what you want and enact a game plan that will bring you to your goal.

Larry Husted
Sports Medicine

Motivation is built by activity, beginning with the thinking we do on a daily basis.  Our conscious thoughts could be goals, situations that we’ve experienced or thoughts of friends and family for example.  To build motivation consciously, start by focusing your awareness only on that which inspires you.  If your inspiration is something that seems too good to be true, try focusing your awareness on the first steps you need to take toward accomplishing what you desire.

Next we have our physical activity.  Physical activity is literally acting out the vision we have created in our heads.  Once again, encourage yourself to make small, meaningful and planned steps toward your ultimate goal.  Physical activity often starts by doing something as simple as writing out a preliminary plan of how you think you would achieve your desired outcome.

Motivation is a tricky thing for most of us at one time or another because it is intangible.  You are not able to see it, smell it, hear it or touch it.  But you can feel it!  Therefore, focus your thoughts on what you feel is motivating and harmonize your activity to support bringing those thoughts into your life.  By doing this you will be flexing your motivational muscles.   

The key to motivation is a sense of control over what you are doing, when you are doing it and where. Choose something you know you love or something you think you'll grow to love and have fun with.  Add in social support such as friends, co-workers or family members to keep you engaged in the activities. The more success you have the more your motivation will build. Similar to anything new, you need to realize that you are starting off with a sense of newness and possible discomfort, but those feelings go away; as with anything in life that is new.
Building motivation starts with an awareness that change is necessary and then figuring out how to move forward in a direction with some intensity. To build motivation and continue to feel motivated, you want to feel good (feel stronger, walk longer, able to walk up stairs, more energy) and feel successful (lower high blood pressure, weight loss, clothes fit better, able to play with your kids).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.