Motivation, Enthusiasm: Are They Really the Same?
By Joan Kent, PhD
Do you ever struggle with motivation? Have you ever missed workouts or eaten poorly because you "just didn't feel motivated"?
For over 13 years, I was both a coach and the nutritionist for a weight-management program that included athletic performance training. Motivation was a frequent stumbling block.
Which Comes First - Motivation or Results?
My immediate response to that question was "motivation." How can you get results if you're not motivated to do anything?
And yet! My first fitness job was to teach new members how to use the equipment and start their programs. Some were excited, others resigned: "My doctor said my blood pressure's too high." "My wife told me I have to lose weight." Some seemed resentful.
Clearly, weight-loss programs don't automatically start with "motivation" as we generally define it – namely, as enthusiasm.
But once these new members started to lose weight, gain energy, sleep better, and get some compliments, they wouldn't miss a day. They'd leave extra cross-trainers in the car because they forgot them once, and it messed up their plans. They'd schedule appointments around their workouts, instead of the reverse.
Apparently, results can precede motivation – and lead to enthusiasm.
So What is Motivation?
In the weight-management program, a behavioral psychologist on staff defined it as excitement. He'd ask participants if they were "still motivated, still excited" – as if those were the same.
Okay. Do you jump out of bed every morning, gleefully anticipating your workout? Or feeling excited about avoiding junk food that day? Chances are, the excitement is on a sliding scale.
Early A.M. gym crowds are pretty consistent. As I trained a client one morning, a man who's at the gym most days approached us to say hello. He added, "I didn't want to be here, but I told myself, 'Gotta do it.'" It was exactly what my client needed to hear. He usually dragged in, feeling "unmotivated."
So Back to the Question: What's Motivation?
Is it enthusiasm? Is it excitement? On any given day, many weight-loss participants probably feel like the guy who said, "Gotta do it."
How can you stay motivated when you're not excited?
Start by accepting your love-it/hate-it feelings about workouts. One day, it'll be your favorite thing to do. Next day, you'll hate it – and the instructor, that Cycling Nazi.
Embrace the dichotomy.
Why not accept the frustrations of your workouts? Discomfort, tedium, sleep deprivation, inconvenience, hard work, sweat, and more.
Why not accept that your sugar addiction means you can't eat sugar? Accept that you need to avoid it so it won't increase your appetite, cause cravings or mood swings, and obsess you.
Mark Twain said, "Do something every day that you don't want to do." He claimed it leads to the habit of doing one's duty without pain.
But It's More. It's the Warrior's Way.
Saying 'yes' to the pain is staying on the warrior's path.
I always told the weight-management participants it was okay to come in scowling. No matter how they felt at first, they were glad they showed up.
I've pushed through tough workouts, competitions, and stage performances despite injuries, exhaustion, lack of prep, lack of desire, even boredom. Decades as a fitness pro have taught me that anyone who balks at doing something unpleasant will have trouble in a weight-loss program, as well as other programs.
A key to happiness, I've read, is to recognize a neutral state as happiness. Same with motivation. It's not enthusiasm, not excitement.
Sometimes motivation is nothing more than planning, then getting where you have to be, and doing what you need to do, so you can get the results you say you want – pushing through obstacles, pain, discouragement ... all the way to the goal.
You could call it the dark side of joy.
"Forget about likes and dislikes; they are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness."
—George Bernard Shaw
Bonus Motivation Tip
A poor diet can be a true motivation-killer, but cleaning up your food can change that – and a heck of a lot more. I'm passionate about helping you make easy – but powerful – changes in your food so you can transform your health, feel better, look better, lose the mood swings, and gain control. Just grab your free Empowered Eating Consult when you visit www.LastResortNutrition.com today!