The Science of Motivation
Strong Motivators That Can Help You Succeed
There are many reasons why people do things like participate in sports, begin an exercise routine or try to make healthier food choices. Finding solid reasoning behind why you want to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself is almost as important as physically applying those changes to your diet and exercise.
It’s important because the more you understand why you’re motivated to doing something, the more you challenge and enjoy yourself, and the more you’re likely to stick with it. Gymaholic explains the strongest motivators, and how to use them to strengthen your drive to achieve your goals.
You may already know the primary reason(s) you exercise, but there are some motivating factors that are scientifically proven to work as better motivators than others. Our main motivations are generally separated into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivators are the strongest forces that drive people to do things. You are intrinsically motivated when you voluntarily do something simply because you enjoy doing it, meaning you don’t need a threat of punishment or reward. There are three main intrinsic drives: The drive to know, to gain accomplishments, and be stimulated.
Knowing what you are capable of, learning new things about your body and yourself, exploring and understanding how and why things work simply out of curiosity can help fulfill personal learning goals. Being taught how to properly perform an exercise by a trainer, participating in a new sport or trying a new move, and learning new recipes to see if they taste good and making use of new ingredients you’ve never tried before.
Accomplishments our need to be unique, creative, to surpass ourselves and master a task. Improving or mastering a difficult task can bring on a strong sense of personal satisfaction, like setting new personal records, memorizing a healthy, great tasting recipe that can blow your friends minds. Challenging yourself keep things interesting and motivates you to constantly create and reach new goals.
Stimulation is an extremely powerful motivator. Feeling great after you finally finish a long, hard workout, the adrenaline you get from playing a competitive sport, the feeling of playing with a team or overcoming a problem. Having fun and enjoying what you’re doing is key when it comes to these motivating factors.
Extrinsic motivators tend to be more shallow goals, which are weaker, and can be broken more easily. They are often used as a means to solve a problem, and not for your own sake of enjoyment. These also have three main drives labelled identification, introjection and external regulation.
Identification Is the strongest of the three extrinsic motivators. This is when you realize that your contribution is important, whether it be that you are a valued member of a sports team, or you realize that your participation and presence in classes or training is important for you to reach your own personal goal. It is the closest to intrinsic motivation, because you have solid logic and are interested in improving, but some of the enjoyment is missing.
When you are feeling pressured to do something, and the guilt and anxiety you get from either not doing something, or not doing it well, is driving you, that is introjection. Many people feel pressured to be ‘in shape’, or change their habits to fit in or work towards a goal that someone else has potentially set for you. This is a more negative drive that can easily be discouraging.
Motivation from material rewards and praise or punishment is fairly common, and how most people try to start up habits.. Doing things to get a treat or avoid criticism isn’t always bad, but it is one of the weakest motivations. Punishing yourself for doing something wrong or failing to reach your goals and thus, not getting your praise or reward can easily break down your will to keep going.
Not seeing the right numbers on the scale, or having a bad workout can cause you to slip down into amotivation, where you see no reason to continue working towards that goal. You feel like you have no control, and doing that workout can’t possibly get you from point A to point B, so why do it at all?
Everyone runs into problems. Different people, depending on their gender, age, environment, ext, experience different issues. In the beginning there can be self consciousness, the fear of failing, lack of social support, health problems, lack of strength, facilities, time and energy… There is also plateaus and times where you fall out of habits that once were once really strong.
In order to keep climbing and improving, you have to get back up when life pushes you down. Solving your problems can be rewarding in itself, so it’s worth it to fight your way over those blocks, and take a big step towards that stronger motivation when you finally get past it.
The first step in getting past barriers is figuring out what they are, and the second step is tackling them one by one, step by step. Some ways to work past the above problems are:
Set personal goals for yourself, and don’t do things for the sake of others opinions of you (focus on yourself, not others). Continue to meet those small goals to give yourself positive reinforcement to continue.
Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. If your goals are very reasonable and you can achieve them easily, you will be more likely to set your goals higher as you continue, and believe in yourself and your ability to achieve them.
Learn the benefits for health, to improve your abilities and quality of life, don’t just focus on your weight or appearance.
Find care and support from mentors like parents, co-workers, trainers, coaches and peers. It can be a strong drive, especially when their feedback is clear, rational, and gives you more information to self-drive and self-support as you solve problems on your own.
Plan and organize yourself to allow proper time to work on and achieve your goals.
Positivity is key to success, and success grows exponentially when it is reinforced, so it’s important that you set and reach each of those goals so you can see and feel your growth and improvement.
Stress free environments like your home can reduce pressure so you can learn at your pace. The same goes for finding a gym with an atmosphere that suits you (smaller and calmer vs larger and louder, or geared towards your activity).
Having extrinsic motivation for something does not mean you will not succeed. Everyone starts somewhere, and strong intrinsic motivation doesn’t appear overnight. Be persistent, consistent and positive, build interest and challenge yourself in order to strengthen your self-drive to succeed.
Satisfaction comes with believing that you can do something, achieving those goals and improving yourself. Always remind yourself why you do what you do, and you will succeed.
I want to. It makes me feel good.
I am worth this, and so it is worth my time.
Richard, M., et al. "Intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence." Int J Sport Psychol 28.4 (1997): 335-354.
Pelletier, Luc G., et al. "Toward a new measure of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation in sports: The Sport Motivation Scale (SMS)." Journal of sport and Exercise Psychology 17 (1995): 35-35.
Karvitz, L. "Exercise Motivation: What Starts and Keeps People Exercising."University of New Mexico (2011).