Elaine is back and let me tell you she had me nodding through this whole post. It took me years to figure out what my motivators are. Wanting to look good in a bathing suit was never enough to keep me going but being a healthy, happy example for my son is. I’ll let Elaine explain what the heck I’m talking about.
If you are new to this series, click here and scroll down to start at the beginning.
Think about this for a second – If I gave you $100 an hour to dig a ditch and then simply fill the ditch back up with dirt for 8 hours a day, would you take the job? This scenario is a classic case study on the role of motivation in human behavior.
Motivation, as we all know, is an amorphous, slip-through-your-fingers kind of feeling that often comes in intense bursts and then fades to the background of jobs, spouses, kids, and other daily tasks. As I spend weeks thinking about and writing motivation, I’ve spent considerable time about thinking about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. In general, you can think of extrinsic motivators as “external” to you and intrinsic motivators as your “internal” motivators. Both are important – but which one matters the most?
In terms of weight loss, external motivators are things like looking sexy, being attractive, or wearing a smaller size jeans. Preparing for a wedding or class reunion are also external motivators. These motivators aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. These motivators can give you a spurt of energy, but are often not sustainable long term. Roni writes often about how she spent her 20s trying to lose weight to fit in to smaller clothes, but it wasn’t until Ryan was born that everything “clicked” for her….
Internal motivators are those motivators that stick with us, day in and day out, to get us through the boring and sometimes monotonous schedule of eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of our bodies. Internal motivators come from a deep appreciation and love of oneself, from knowing that you are worth it, and from knowing that you can and do have the power to make long-lasting positive change in your life.
If you think about the scenario of digging a ditch simply for income, you might think that “sure, I could do that for a day or two. Maybe even a month.” A research study done at Yale University was completed in the 1960s and determined that there was no amount of money that could motivate an employee to do meaningless work for an extended duration of time. The same is true of weight loss – you have to find your internal motivators, bolster them with some external motivators and rewards, and commit for the long haul.
The fun thing about internal motivators is they are all different. For me, it’s the self-efficacy and pride that comes from being able to run a half-marathon. What is it for you? What motivates you to the very core of your being?