As most of you will know, my core beliefs when it comes to health, fitness, weight loss and exercising are that whatever changes you are going to make in your life, they need to be sustainable. For a change to be sustainable you must have the correct reasons and motivation for making that change.
Now you may ask ‘What is the correct motivation for making a change in your life?’. This is where you need to know your goal or target. What do you want to achieve? When you know what you want to achieve you can then begin to work out what it will take to get there. These are the changes that you need to make in order to achieve your overall goal.
Just to go slightly off on a tangent for a minute; there are two types of motivations that we need to know about. These are Intrinsic and Extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for consideration. People are more likely to have intrinsic motivation if they
- are interested in mastering something new, even though there is no reward at the end of it.
- engage in a task willingly
- attribute their results to factors under their own control, also known as autonomy of control
- believe they have the skills to be effective agents in reaching their desired goals, also known as self-efficacy beliefs
Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain a desired outcome and it is the opposite of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are:
- rewards (prizes, exam results, personal best times) for showing the desired behaviour
- the threat of punishment following failure/non-compliance
Competition is an extrinsic motivator because it encourages the performer to win or to beat a personal best, not simply to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity. So in order to achieve the extrinsic goal, you need to have an interest or self-belief in the activities you need to complete to get there.
With extrinsic motivation, the harder question to answer is where do people get the motivation to carry out and continue to push with towards their target.
Now back to where I got distracted with explaining motivation. You need to know your ‘why?’ for your original goal/target. If it is weight loss, ‘why’ do you want to get to your goal weight? ‘Why’ did you choose that weight? Is it the weight on the scale you crave or the look you had when you weighed that weight last?
In 2011 a psychologist, Martin Seligman, published the book ‘Flourish’. This included a model with five elements that if all are in place we have a great chance of making lasting changes and experiencing well-being. This model is the PERMA Model. The five key elements are:
P Positive Emotions
Let me explain each one in relation to a healthier lifestyle.
P Positive Emotions – This is often described as sensory pleasure. This could be tasty (nutritious) food, warm baths, being in a place you love (outdoors, gym)
E Engagement – When we’re truly engaged in something, you we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop and we concentrate intensely on the present. This could be cooking your favourite healthy meal, a gym class or a run outdoors
R Relationships – These are often the social ties between the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Think of the friends you have made through exercising or the strengthening family ties that follow fun outdoor activities
M Meaning – This comes from us thinking that we are serving a bigger purpose than ourselves. This can range from being religious, to being part of a running club, gym or even Facebook groups.
A Accomplishments – These are usually the extrinsic motivators (certainly previous ones). If you are reading this, the chances are you will have something in the future you want to accomplish. This could be weight loss, getting new running PBs, learning a new language, etc. As these have an outcome at the end, they are the easiest to struggle with. This is where you need your PERM to be in place (no, not the 80’s hairstyle) to ensure that you have the intrinsic (internal) motivations in place to carry you through the days or weeks where things don’t go to plan.
So, to bring everything back together as this has been a little disjointed (sorry), you need to find your intrinsic motivation to achieve your extrinsic goal. This means that to get to your goal weight (for example):
- you need to know why you want to get to that weight (Accomplishment)
- what can you do that you enjoy and gives you positive emotions that will keep you on track (Positive Emotions & Engagement)
- do you have the relationships, social groups and belief, or can you find them, to support you towards your goals (Relationships & Meaning)
If you can get all of these in place, you have a far better chance of not only reaching your goal, but also in sustaining a healthier lifestyle than you had previously. Sustainable progress needs to be enjoyable and fit in with your lifestyle or you will just find it to hard and not enjoy your new life.
Good luck and if you need any help, please contact me.
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