If you were to take a moment and peruse online literature about fitness, you would likely come across witty keywords and phrases centered on intrinsic motivation and perseverance. There is so much of this shit out there; it makes me sick. It is almost like people need to be reminded how to accomplish their goals and need a little pep talk every day to function. Much of this proverbial vomit comes from self-proclaimed fitness experts that feel that they have the answer for you as it pertains to reaching your personal fitness goals via motivational malarkey, worthless step-by-step lists, and nebulous snippets of “advice” aimed to appease a laymen reader. Most of it is a steaming pile of excrement. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly knowledgeable fitness gurus out there, but there are much more who are not.
Let me stop there for a minute and say that I indeed do not have a Ph.D. in nutritional science or exercise physiology, and I do not claim to be a health and fitness professional or motivational speaker. The truth of the matter is that I found the gym at 14-years-old. The minute I stepped into a gym, I felt safe…it was my place…a place to clear my mind and get to work. For me, the results are, and always have been icing on the cake, but competing, or getting bigger and stronger was never my motivation. With that said, I truly believe that online “noise” and relying on “professional advice” as a source of motivation to improve yourself is detrimental to overall progress. In no way does this mean that you should not educate yourself and learn how different exercise movements impact different muscles, how to perform exercises correctly, or in what way to adjust macronutrient intake to maximize results properly. I am all for learning new things and expanding my knowledge.
The bottom line is that we are all individuals with individual needs and perceptions of the environment around us. There is no hack or “one size fits all” solution to our mental or physical existence and what we deem a success. There is no external source of motivation that will sustain the test of time.
If you truly want to accomplish something, you are going to do it, and you are going to see it through. You may have some barriers that you need to overcome (we all do), but you will find a way to succeed. You won’t need assistance from a book or some online social media factotum who makes life look so easy and who makes you wonder what you are doing wrong. By the same token, if you are not committed to yourself, and rely on external sources of motivation, you will soon start making excuses why you will not be able to achieve your goals. I am certainly guilty of boarding the excuse train…we all are. It is easy to make a marriage, children, and a demanding professional career an excuse for not doing something for yourself. There are many other “excellent excuses” as well.
With that said, I want to offer the following thoughts on what works for me as it pertains to planting the seed of motivation and then ensuring strong roots take hold. I am not offering advice, just my thoughts. I believe that motivation is not a naturally sustaining phenomenon. Just think about it for a minute. Remember the last time you got excited about something and decided that you were going to go out there and take over the world? On the first day, you had goosebumps, energy, and were kicking ass and taking names. You felt the same way on the second day, but your energy levels were not quite as high as they were on the first day. On the third day, you got distracted, made an excuse for yourself, and decided to pick up where you left off the following day. On the fourth day, another excuse emerged, and then another, and another, and before you knew it you were telling yourself you would try again in a few months when the “time was right.” What went wrong? How did you fail?
Let’s swing back to my statement about the non-sustaining nature of motivation. Without discipline, a process, and rhythm, the scenario I described will happen every time you attempt to go after a personal goal. In other words, the key to sustaining motivation is viewing it as a process versus some supernatural force that should permeate every aspect of your existence. This approach, in my opinion, is even more critical if you already have a hectic personal and professional life. So how can motivation be looked at as a process? Let’s look at what I am saying a different way. Let’s pretend you want to start a company that manufactures basketballs. The goal is to create high-quality basketballs that consumers will purchase from retail locations who carry your product. To achieve your vision, you cannot merely wish the basketballs to appear, nor can you take a haphazard approach to producing basketballs by setting up shop in your garage. The only way to accomplish your goal is to implement a disciplined, tangible and realistic process that ensures the output of high-quality basketballs. If the motivation is to create basketballs, you need to find a real way to get there. So, let’s say you come up with this impressive and efficient manufacturing process to produce said basketballs. You’ve applied Lean, and Six Sigma management principles and you know your method is tight. Guess what? You are still going to pump out a certain percentage of basketballs that do not pass quality assurance/quality control standards. Does that mean your process is faulty? No. Every process has failures, and the only way to improve upon shortcomings is to accept them for what they are and implement appropriate mitigation strategies.
The same manufacturing example described can be applied to fitness motivation and sustaining a consistent output of motivation to achieve the desired result. Some of what I am referencing in this post is highlighted in my last piece titled “A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish.” If you have a few minutes to burn, I encourage you to check it out. The way I’ve approached process development for my personal fitness goals is first to identify what I want to achieve. With a goal in mind, I then developed a plan or process to keep myself accountable, and most importantly, I established a daily rhythm, more conventionally known as a routine. I am not just talking about a workout routine; I am talking about a life routine.
To honestly stay committed and motivated, I firmly believe that you must keep beating the drum, you must stay on task, and your daily rhythm must become second nature.
You must get to the point where you feel incomplete if you miss a workout or miss a meal. You must get to the point where you think you’ve failed if you don’t wake up when your alarm clock sounds in the wee hours of the morning while most of the world is still sleeping. That, in my opinion, is when you know you’ve turned the corner, you’ve established a rhythm, and true discipline is taking hold. With that said, you are still going to be bumps in the road…you will always come up against personal challenges, but you will know how to get past them, and you won’t need help from an external source to get you there.
Since I launched Reignite, I’ve swerved off the road many times. I’ve missed some workouts. I’ve fallen short on my daily caloric intake and macronutrient ratios. I’ve gone to bed too late and slept through my “workout” alarm only to be jostled out of bed by my “you better get your ass up now, or you are going to be late for work alarm.” I am not perfect. We are not perfect. The key is not to make excuses for the bumps and let them become consistent. I look at each missed workout or missed meal as an opportunity to get better…a chance to development process improvement strategies to avoid future defects and improve my pass/fail rate.
The overall goal is to have a significantly higher percentage of good days than bad days and to continue pursuing perfection while realizing perfection is impossible.
The only way to achieve that goal is through discipline, a process, and rhythm. Keep grinding my friends.