Motivation – the driving force behind reaching health and wellness goals
In its most simple definition, motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way or the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
However, it is more complex than the defining words. There are two types of motivation: external and autonomous (internal). An example of external motivation might be “I’m exercising because my spouse will get upset if I don’t” or telling oneself “I should eat better and exercise to prepare for my upcoming doctor visit.” Although external motivation may work for the short term, it is not an effective form of motivation for the long term.
Autonomous internal motivation has a future orientation in mind. In the health coaching world, we call it a “vision.” A vision is important because ninety-five per cent of our behaviors are automatic, and our brains are oriented towards the present. For instance, I am stressed right now, so I’m going to drink (or smoke, or eat unhealthy foods). I am tired, so I’m going to skip the gym. If 95% of our brain is on autopilot, and our minds are oriented towards our present desires and what feels good NOW, something is required to fight for what we really want our lives and our futures to look like. Thinking about our vision and pulling it into the present moment is the perfect opponent towards all the unhealthy behaviors that challenge us.
For me personally, as a wife, mother, grandmother and employee…
my autonomous motivation is to stay fit for daily energy to make a difference in my work and play. And if it’s in my control, aging with independence so not to burden my family and friends is also a motivator.
The best type of autonomous motivation is one that can produce positive experiences in our daily lives that align with our vision. For instance, if we love yoga class, or we like to try healthy recipes, or we have certain relaxation habits, those are experiences that can provide internal motivation for staying healthy. We are wired to do things we enjoy. So, if we can find healthy behaviors that are enjoyable, those will help fuel our motivation.
Connecting a behavior to something that we value in the future is the type of motivation that has a proven success rate because it bridges the gap between who we are and who we want to be. It also creates an antidote to the impulses and short-term desires that seem to derail us. We may think we want that cookie when we are stressed, but if we pause to consider our future and our vision, what we really want is something so much greater than the cookie. We just need the reminder.
It’s ok to be externally motivated…
by things like losing weight and finding just the right outfit for a big event; we are human. But let’s go deeper and find a longer-lasting, more meaningful motivation that can challenge some of the behaviors we are trying to change and that will keep us on track for the dozens of health decisions we make each day.
If you haven’t taken the time to develop a future-oriented, positive view of yourself based on autonomous motivation or the “why behind the why,” keep looking. Answering these deeper questions and plugging into what you want long term doesn’t come easy in this busy, fast-paced world we live in and with the way our brains are wired. Although it may appear selfish, there is nothing selfish about self-care. We are best equipped to serve others when we are healthy and have energy to do so. Autonomous, internal, self-motivation often presents as a desire to help others, be a role model for your children, make a difference in the world and live meaningful and productive lives. So, the next time you find yourself thinking, “I need motivation,” consider what’s most important to you, the “why behind the why,” and what your greatest vision for the future is. The motivation will follow.
If you need a Wellview Health Advisor to help you get started, we are ready!
– Sherree Telford, RDN LDN CDE CHWC
Health Advisor | Email Sherree