Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Motivation Mojo

By Shannon (Janes) Hess ’06

Everybody talks about motivation but not many people have it. 

It’s that energy that gets you up and moving an hour earlier each morning to work out or that resolve to drive to the gym before we head home. We call it motivation, but it answers to many other names – desire, ambition, need.

Hess '06 before and after a kick of motivation mojo.

Motivation is tricky thing. It smacks you in the face on January 1 when we make our New Year’s resolution; when we no longer fit into our favorite pair of jeans; when we get winded from keeping up with the kids at the park; when we think about that upcoming spring vacation in a swimsuit. We all get motivated – for a while. The question is how to stay motivated. I think the key to understanding motivation is to understand habits. A habit is the status quo, the comfortable, the ordinary, the rut. It’s the place we all inhabit and most of the time it serves us well.

We make a habit of brushing our teeth before bed, where we grocery shop, of working to a schedule, driving the same way home from work, or putting the left leg into my pants before the right one. Habit is unconscious behavior. It requires no thought, uses little energy; it is our automatic pilot through life.

To see how a habit works move a trashcan from one side of your desk to the other. It will probably be several days of catching yourself before the waste basket’s new location becomes the norm again.

Habit is the path of least resistance. That is why it is so hard to change – our minds or our bodies. In fact, the only thing that can change a habit is conscious energy, conscious thought and choice. When we are ‘breaking’ a habit we feel resistance. The comfortable ‘old way’ calls to us. It is so much easier not to change, to go with the flow of the past.

We all know our motivation to workout will falter. We all know our initial desire will fade away. Knowing this, what can we do to keep our motivation mojo energized? 

Here are some suggestions:

Set realistic goals: Nothing is more discouraging than setting goals that are too hard or too high. Break that big goal down into smaller steps that are easier to meet. Feel proud each time you reach one.

Focus on the process: View your workout as an end in itself. Yes, you have a larger goal in mind but be present in this moment, in this day’s program and enjoy that first. Pat yourself on the back every single time you complete your workout.

Prepare for temptation: Admit that you may sometimes be tempted to skip your workout and be ready with good answers.

Schedule your workout: This means actually scheduling your workout times on your calendar, cell phone, whatever. Make a commitment to your workout time with the same seriousness as you schedule a business appointment.

Work out with a partner: This works because it helps keep you accountable. If you don’t show up for your workout you not only disappoint yourself but your partner.

Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, you want to lose weight, get fit or perform better, but don’t put yourself down with a lot of negative self-talk when you occasionally slip up. After all, we’re only human. When you do miss a session, examine why it happened, look at the temptation and be ready for that resistance the next time it rears its head.

Hess '06 played basketball and softball while studying at Pacific. Since her time at Pacific, she married Jordan Hess and is now a mother to two daughters. She is a Certified Health Coach from Take Shape for Life. Learn more here: www.GetFitAndLiveHealthy.tsfl.com

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