What gets you to do something, let alone stick with it?
How do you move beyond discipline to find the joy of being fit and strong, staying engaged for the year ahead and beyond?
More so than any other factor, more than knowledge–even more than the perfect plan–your ability to create, sustain and renew motivation determines your success in fitness and in life.
Motivation is the catalyst to action, energy for motion—it propels you to do something. The perfect plan for certain success is of no use in the absence of the drive to take action.
All motivation is not created equal.
External motivators are commonly referred to as the “carrot and the stick;” things we move away from (the stick) like fear, pain and punishment and things we move towards with desire, like the carrot compels the donkey to pull a cart. As the name implies, these motivators reside outside of you. The hallmark of external motivation is that the reward is almost always in the future. External motivators can be strong and highly effective yet they generally are not sustainable, easily derailed, and require much effort and discipline.
Internal motivators arise from within; they’re self-generated. Often more powerful, always more sustainable, meaningful and persistent, internal motivators triumph even in the face of great obstacles. The hallmark of internal motivation is that the reward is found within the activity itself. It’s worthy to note that for the large majority of people, the external motivators—the carrot and stick—are the only source of motivation.
Road to Mastery
Contrary to popular myth, a lifetime of fitness is not the product of rock solid discipline. Discipline takes great effort and is a short-term strategy. When it comes to sustaining a lifetime of strength and fitness it’s a steady stream of ever-evolving motivation that will carry you to new heights.
The four stages of motivation that follow show you how to move beyond discipline to the higher reaches of motivation, which are not fueled by requirements but by your passion. When you are doing what you love because you love doing it, everything changes.
Stage 1: Obligation-Based Motivation: “I Should”
Obligation-based motivation is a common point of entry into fitness. People who struggle maintaining a fitness lifestyle, tend to lug around a bucket overflowing with obligations in the form of “should.” You hear them say they should exercise, should eat right—they should because their doctor told them to.
It may be enough to get you started but it lacks sustainability and is often frustrating. It’s the motivational style employed by most dieters, hence the reason 95% of them fail.
Stage 2: Desire-Based Motivation: “I Want To”
Desire is the way out of the endless cycle of obligation. Moving from “I should get in shape” to “I want to feel 10 years younger.” You’ll stay with your commitments longer and enjoy higher motivation if you use a strong and clearly defined vision and set of goals, as you did at the beginning of the Fit for Success program.
A step in the right direction; however Desire-based motivation has an endpoint: the “win” or goals achieved. As such, goals are not the answer to sustainable motivation, but rather tools to be leveraged along the way. Many who satisfy their goals and complete a 12 week Transformation quickly revert back. Their loss of motivation a mystery, they recall their experience of transforming fondly and speak of the desire to “get back at it.”
Stage 3: Enjoyment-Based Motivation: “I Love To”
What do you love doing so much so that you become lost in the activity itself? It could be anything—reading, cooking, painting, fly-fishing, music,—it’s different for everyone. When you deeply enjoy something, your mind is graced with the presence of the moment.
Wanting a sculpted, lean body does not signify Enjoyment-based motivation. Having a deep interest and passion to do the activities that naturally lead to such a body is. Enjoying the outcome isn’t necessarily enjoying the process of getting there—therein lies a crucial distinction.
In Stage 3 obligation and external pressure wane.
Stage 4: Mastery: “I’m Inspired, Just Try and Stop Me!”
When an activity ceases to be something you do and becomes a way of life, you begin to experience the pinnacle of freedom, Mastery. It arrives unannounced when your practices become integral to your life. At this stage of motivation you do not rely on the first 3 stages—that’s not to say that you don’t use these types of motivation as stepping stones; however, you are free from dependence upon them.
Mastery of training frees you from struggling to “get your workout in.” You train because that’s how you approach life. Your body is strong and vital not because you train; rather you train to celebrate your strength and vitality.
Mastery does not arrive on schedule—it doesn’t come in 12 days or 12 weeks.
Mastery comes only through your steady and full engagement for the 12 months ahead and a consistent annual commitment to strength. It’s your path to true freedom and sustainability. Be patient, Mastery takes time.
Moving From Obligation to Inspiration
Sustaining motivation is vital to your continued growth along the path of life and it can be tricky to navigate. Freedom is found in the higher reaches of motivation, but the true power is in the mix—an ever-changing blend of the stages of motivation.
If you’re committed to growing beyond the carrot and stick to a truly sustainable form of motivation then you must learn to fall in love with training itself and not just the results. Patience, commitment and persistence are all essential ingredients; however, ultimately you must aim for joy and you’ll discover, in the least expected of moments, Mastery.
As you discover how to love the training leading you to the goals that matter most, you will transform discipline into freedom, struggle into grace, and willpower into passion.