It’s challenging to maintain good habits consistently.
Our time seems to be scheduled down to the minute, and some days getting that workout in is last on our list of priorities.
When that happens, it’s easy to make excuses:
- “I’m too busy to workout today”
- “I missed my workout for the past two days, so I might as well skip it again today.”
We’ve written before about for dealing with a lack of time and the challenge of consistency.
But what if it’s not a time issue or a habit issue, but rather an issue of motivation?
Finding Your Driving Force
Motivation is what keeps you going when things get difficult. And boy, do they get difficult!
It’s pretty common for training to fall by the wayside when “life happens” and things come up. Most of us are already bogged down by a number of obligations and commitments, and feeling the pressure of having too many things to do each day.
It’d be so easy to chuck it and instead take that hour or so to do one of the million other things we need to get done.
And that’s not a case of being “lazy” or “not wanting it enough,” it’s a real and reasonable feeling.
The only way to combat this is to understand your true motivation for working out, and train for the right reasons.
Your motivation can really only come from two places, inside of you or from the outside.
Finding the right source for your motivation can be the difference between keeping up and progressing with your training protocol, or being inconsistent and frustrated with little progress to show for it.
What type of motivation is driving you?
Read on, and find out.
The most common kind of motivation is derived from sources outside of yourself. Some examples are:
- Wanting to get in shape for your high school reunion
- Getting your cholesterol and weight down to qualify for better life insurance
- Wanting to beat your coworkers in the office basketball league
There are even programs like Couch to 5K that offer help for specific milestones. And these are great!
Anything to get people moving and up off their butt right?
Yet, what happens after you achieve (or worse, don’t achieve) those benchmarks? Do you just find another one to keep you going?
Some people do, and having goals to work towards isn’t a bad thing, but often these motivations tend to give a sense of obligation, one we fulfill out of duty or responsibility, often to win the approval of others. These motivations may very well be in sync with our personal desires, but it’s always perceived as something we have to do.
And when we act to gain approval from someone else, it never works out well.
I believe it’s ultimately a dead end to seek motivation from outside yourself.
You can get caught up in constantly pursuing the approval of others, and it can lead you farther and farther away from why you are really doing this in the first place.
Internal motivation is derived from within.
And because it’s coming from you, you’ll probably find that your resolve is stronger, and that it’s much easier to stay consistent and make progress towards your goals.
As a trainer and a coach, it is my job to keep up with my exercise, but it’s also been a big part of who I am since I was a kid.
I found that the times in my life where I wasn’t able to keep active and up with my training were the times I felt lost and disconnected.
My desire to stay connected and continue on my path made it easy for me to always find the time and energy to maintain my fitness practice.
In a prior article, I’ve talked about understanding your purpose for training, and determining your purpose is a big part of finding motivation that comes from within. Understanding your personal fundamental values is key to realizing what is going to keep you inspired and driven on those rough days when it’d be easier to lie down and catch up on your favorite TV show.
Getting healthy, feeling strong, looking better. These are good reasons for training for sure, but they are actually superficial.
There are even deeper motives underneath.
- Your loved ones
- Regaining your sense of self worth
- Coming back from a serious health issue
These are very common real internal motivations that once realized, you can tap into and gain strength from.
You see, rather than depending upon external motivators to persuade you to keep training, internal motivation is like air in your lungs filling you up for that extra bit of oomph when you need it.
It’s an energy fueling you from within.
Relying on external motivation is like pressure from outside yourself, sometimes it moves you forward, but a lot of times it can be a heavy load bearing down on you.
“You’re Too Old” and Other Limiting Beliefs
Be careful of the stories you tell yourself.
A lot of people of people are motivated by others who are fit and able to perform amazing skills. These people are inspirational, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t influenced by my coaches, peers, students, and other athletes.
But it’s not the people that are working hard and improving themselves that get me going, it’s those in my peer group that aren’t doing anything.
You see, I realize that I’m not really that old, but I sure as shootin’ am not a youngster anymore.
Especially when it comes to the skills that I love training with and teaching to my students. It’s obvious that these skills are easier for young people to learn.
That’s why it’s pretty common to see examples of kids or teenagers working through gymnastic movements or hand balancing techniques on YouTube or other training sites.
But just because you aren’t 17 anymore doesn’t mean that this level of fitness is impossible for you.
Right now I’m 40 years old. To me, that isn’t really a big deal because I still feel great and move better now than I’ve ever been able to.
But there are people who tell me that I’m foolish for wanting to continue training the way I do and that I’m asking for an injury. In fact, just recently someone told me that I only have, at most, a good 5 or 6 years before I will have to retire from doing what I do.
You’re telling me that I need to quit experimenting, playing, learning, growing and doing cool tricks just because I’m at an age where other people may have given up?
That’s just not how I roll.
I smiled at him nicely and murmured a “Yeah, maybe.” But I’d never let myself actually believe that.
I think this guy thought he was trying to be helpful and really does believe that at some point everyone needs to hang it up and just take up gardening and bridge night over at the Bingo Hall.
But on a deeper level, it may have been an attempt for him to confirm his own limiting belief that this level of fitness wasn’t a possibility for him.
I’m not going to let other’s fears and limiting beliefs about themselves determine how I live my life. And I know you aren’t going to let that happen either. We’ve only got one shot here!
You Decide How You’re Going To Live
Have you ever seen a dad out playing with his kids?
Sure you have. But have you seen a dad out there actually doing things like climbing, crawling, cartwheeling, and jumping around?
Probably not so much. This is what I’m really talking about.
Right now my two kids are five and three years old and that means that when I’m 50 they’ll only be 15 and 13. When I’m 60 they’ll be 25 and 23. Just thinking about that scares me!
But only a little bit.
That’s because I will be the dad out there playing with my kids for as long as they’ll let me.
Notice I didn’t write “plan on,” I wrote “will be.”
When my daughter was born I made a promise to myself that I would always be physically strong for her. And I doubled that promise when her brother came along.
So, for me, it’s not really about keeping up with other people, or forcing myself to exercise out of guilt or obligation.
I choose to carry on because I want to be that dad that can go one more round of “horsie” with both kids on my back. I want them to feel like they can ask me to go with them on a hike like I did with my pops.
What is it that drives you forward to keep exercising without feeling obligated?
Everyday is a New Opportunity
Every morning when we wake up, we have a new opportunity to kick some ass during that day. It’s our choice to do it or not. And if we don’t that’s fine, no one is really going to know any better.
But you’ll know.
Especially if you really want to do more than just get through the day. Everyday I get up in the morning and my kids remind me of this fact.
Taking care of myself isn’t something that I feel the need to do, it’s something that I choose to do.
That’s an important distinction for me.
There’s enough in our lives that we feel obligated to do, and we shouldn’t add taking care of ourselves and being strong to that list. Then it just becomes another chore, instead of something we feel good about.
Reconnect with the true motivations and find something manageable and enjoyable to keep you going.
Our introductory program, Elements, is a simple and fun way to build strength, flexibility, and control, so you can work on that foundation even on the rough days. When you connect that practice with your internal motivations, you’ll be far more successful in the long run.