What on earth is motivation? We’re always banging on about it. We need it, we want it, we lack it – and when we do manage to find it, we struggle to maintain it. According to Google, one definition of motivation is:
a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way
Another definition is:
desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm
Funnily enough, I had already decided that motivation is useless without strong desire – and that enthusiasm is often short lived! The bottom line is, if we want to achieve any goal, we can’t expect motivation (in the way that we generally understand it) to be enough to carry us through. For example, during the lockdowns, even though many of those within the fitness industry continued to conduct classes online, the drop off was huge – and the most commonly used defence was “I just can’t motivate myself”. And someone recently commented to me that, although they really want to be slimmer and fitter, they lack the motivation to do anything about it. I didn’t attempt to talk her round or encourage her; experience has taught me that hell hath no fury like the unhappily unmotivated!
So, if motivation isn’t enough, what is it that we need? Well, first and foremost, it has to be desire. Without it – in bucket-loads – our goals are destined to fall by the wayside. Enthusiasm, though important, can be all well and good – because we tend to lose it when the going gets tough. I know that I have lost mine many times. However, because the desire was still there, I managed, with effort, to regroup and regain it. This has applied to my ‘day job’ as an intuitive consultant. It has also applied to my developing writing career, my finances, and my fitness and weight – amongst other things. And I can say, with hand on heart, that it has been a bit of a slog at times. However, this is what I always ask myself whenever I’m flagging: “In the bigger picture, how badly do you want this? Which is strongest – the feeling of wanting to give up… or the desire to reach your goal? Stay exactly as and where you are – or change?” I have sworn, a thousand times, that “That is it! I’m finally done. What’s the point of putting in all of this effort when I’m not getting anywhere?” And I have sulked for a while, feeling sorry for myself… only to end up deciding that continuing to try is definitely the lesser of two evils! When all is said and done, if something is important enough for me to want to achieve it, the letting go of the possibility of success is far more painful than the ease that would come with the letting go. It all comes down to just how much we really want something. If we kind of like the idea of it, but not enough to engage in the amount of effort that would be required, all of the motivation in the world isn’t going to make a jot of difference. Even if we make a start, we’ll throw in the towel at the first or second hurdle. And even desire, alone, isn’t enough. Most of us yearn for something – and yet we still don’t take the relevant, consistent steps toward it. Why is that?
Well, one of the reasons is that we don’t believe that we have the capacity to achieve that thing, even if we give it everything we’ve got. In other words, we fear failure – and it immediately becomes a lose-lose situation; if we do try and it doesn’t happen, we’ve failed; on the other hand, if we don’t try, we’ve failed anyway.
Another reason is that we expect the world to adapt itself to us. We don’t see why we should have to change or work hard in order to gain whatever it is that we want. Sometimes we don’t even see that it is us who needs to change our mindset, attitude and approach, in order to get to where we say we want to be. We become frustrated and respond defensively toward any suggestion that we should consider making adjustments. We say things like “I tried that and it didn’t work”, or “I don’t have time”, or “I am already doing everything right so I don’t understand why I’m not succeeding.”
And sometimes we are trying to climb the whole mountain in one fell swoop, rather than treating it as a step-by-step process. I have heard many, many people say, by way of excusing their lack of action toward a goal that they themselves claim to want to achieve, “the thing is, I’m impatient, you see. I want it all now and am just not prepared to wait!” I absolutely understand part of this defence; I have always been impatient myself. And I have also put myself under agonising pressure, by comparing myself to those who have already reached the heady heights to which I aspire. From a negative viewpoint, it can be a bitter pill to swallow, seeing others race ahead of me; from a positive viewpoint, they are, at least, proving that it can be done! What I don’t understand is the smugness that appears to accompany this ‘reason’ for not persisting – it’s hardly a get-out-of-jail-free card!
There is another reason, too; bad habits. Too often we start off with good intentions, only to cave in at the first temptation. As they say, old habits die hard. On January fourth of this year, I knew that I had to do something about the weight I had gained over the previous three years (not to mention the Christmas that had just passed). Actually, I didn’t have to do anything about it – but I wanted to. Really wanted to. I was avoiding looking at myself in the mirror from the neck down. I hated being photographed or videoed, especially in my kickboxing gear (I saw myself as a square blob). I had few clothes that fitted me and couldn’t get into my beloved old motorbike jacket. Most of the fat had accumulated around my waist and on my stomach, leaving me feeling like a little barrel with legs. This time there was no escaping or putting it off; left to its own devices, it would only become worse, not better. However, both my body and my mind were accustomed to scoffing as if a famine was on its way… and I had to retrain them. At the time of writing this, I have lost 17 lbs, so it has been slow going (twenty weeks, so less than one pound per week), but I haven’t starved myself, and I still enjoy a glass of wine or two at night. However, I haven’t been dieting – I have been developing a new, habitual, way of eating. A habit that worked for me for many years, before putting the weight on (and I do understand why I developed that old, destructive way of eating that led me off the straight and narrow). I am also older now, and it is a sad fact of life that it becomes harder to lose weight as the years go by. I (grudgingly!) accept that.
The point is, when we are looking up at the mountain we say we want to climb, our old ways are like broken tools – they just aren’t up to the job. So, we need new ones. And those new tools need to be developed, sharpened, and fine-tuned. The whole thing can seem like a huge, insurmountable task – with the first few weeks of change being the hardest. Nevertheless, if we outlast them we’re getting somewhere! I remember how hard I resisted fitness classes, claiming that I would start “when I’ve lost some of this weight” – yes, I really said that! And I have heard other women make the same ridiculous statement. However, I do understand their way of thinking. I felt embarrassed by my poundage and was afraid that I wouldn’t be fit enough to keep up. Eventually though, I decided to bite the bullet, and here I am, almost three years later, with a brown/black belt in kickboxing (despite a severely arthritic hip)! Has it been easy? Hell no, it hasn’t. And is it getting easier? Well, in some ways no, because there is always a new level of fitness to reach, and also because I am limited by my hip (adaptations are made for me, such as the focus being on the low kicks, and the building of upper body strength in order to compensate). However, on the other hand, I often feel for the new starters because I can see a) that they’re self-conscious and b) how hard it is hard for them, all red-faced and breathless, and I think, “that used to be me!” So, actually, it does become easier, and I know that the same will be true for them – if they persist and persevere (some do, many don’t). Do I always feel in the mood to attend classes? Absolutely not. Am I always glad that I did? Every time! I remind myself how I used to feel when I was less fit and heavier, and I want to avoid going back there more than I want to avoid the ongoing effort. And that’s the secret!
We are only motivated if we have an end result in mind that is genuinely important enough to us. If you tell me that you really want to complete a hundred mile walk whilst continuing to come up with all kinds of reasons why you can’t, and I put a gun to the head of someone you love and threaten to pull the trigger if you don’t, the likelihood is that all of a sudden you’ll find the motivation! A bit extreme, I know, but you get the picture. If, deep down inside, you don’t want to walk a 100 mile race, then don’t. Let yourself off the hook, stop going on about it, and don’t waste other people’s time with it. If you don’t really want to be fitter, or at least not enough to commit to the process, quit telling others that you are going to start next week/month/year. Nobody really cares whether you do or don’t. If you say that you want to lose weight (again, nobody cares, as long as you are happy with yourself), whilst insisting on talking about it, claiming that you hardly eat a thing, even asking friends to back you up, you need to change the record. There are some unfortunate souls who suffer from a genuine medical condition that gives them no control over their body weight – but they are in the minority, rather than the majority. Again, I am not suggesting that anyone who is carrying extra pounds should take steps to lose them; it makes no difference to me. I am referring to those who go out of their way to explain why they want to – but can’t – lose weight. And who become immediately defensive when offered encouragement or advice. And who claim to eat very little indeed. The truth is, if we have been overweight for some time, like it or not, we are eating more than we need. And yes, I am aware that what I have just said is likely to seriously anger some people – but I stand by it (I’ve seen the TV programme Secret Eaters!). I’m not a doctor, of course. However, I believe that it is probably true for most of us that if we are eating more than we need and exercising less than we need, we are going to put on weight. Yes, some of us have slower metabolisms than others, which sucks. It just means that we have to work harder than they do, in order to lose the pounds. And as for the defence that our body goes into starvation mode if we don’t eat enough, hanging onto fat, well yes, for some people that will be true; however, it doesn’t stay in starvation mode. Eventually, if we eat less than we need for long enough, the weight will start to decrease. And this brings me to an important point: even the strongest desire requires something else if it is to lead us to success – and that something is patience!
There are very few genuine overnight successes in this world. Well, few who continue to be successful, that is, rather than sparkle and shine before dropping off the radar. Whatever it is we want to achieve, you can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to need to have the patience of ten saints, never mind one! It has taken me twenty six years of consistent, hard work to bring my intuitive consultancy business to the stage it’s currently at. I self-published my first book on Amazon in 2017, and a huge amount of commitment has been required to develop my writing career to such a point that I am attracting a steady flow of sales. And, as I said earlier, it has taken around three years to get to where I am, fitness wise… but I am the one setting the goals. I know my target weight, and I know that I will need to continue to maintain it. I know my fitness targets (even though they are intimidating – and, on top of that, knowing that I will eventually have to have a hip replacement). I know that I have many more books within me to write and publish, even though the market is horribly competitive. I sometimes want to throw in the towel on all of these things – but who would I be and what would I do if I did? I am more afraid of not striving than I am of the eternal, lifelong effort that is going to be required in order to keep striving… if you see what I mean. Am I motivated? I don’t know, to be honest. But I do know that I want to be slimmer again more than I don’t; I know that I want to get as close to a black belt as I am able to, and continue to feel and see my muscles becoming more toned than I don’t; and I know that I want to continue writing (even though I sometimes cry, feeling that I’m not ‘getting anywhere’!) more than I don’t. I think that it is fair to say that true motivation is a combination of a big enough reason to reach for something, a powerful enough desire for it, a willingness to be consistent in our effort, a bigger picture plan… and a fear of not even having given it a go in the first place! Phew – when I put it like that, it sounds like a big ask! But do you know what? That is what is so amazing about us human souls; we have within us the inbuilt capacity to dig deep and fly high. And all we have to do is be willing to dream and then try – and keep trying until we get to where want to be, or grow old and die… whichever comes first! And, as huge as that sounds, if it is something that is truly, genuinely, important to us, it will be worth every second… and every single drop of blood, sweat, and tears! Heck, this is our incarnation; what else are we going to do with it?