“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”- Thomas Edison
We all know that in order to achieve a goal, we need to take action. And if at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again. But what is that internal thing that propels us to try in the first place? The reasons why we take action stem from a number of different factors. Collectively we commonly refer to them as “motivation”.
We often associate motivation with taking positive action, but why does it seem so elusive when it comes to achieving our dreams and goals? For instance, when it comes to making the changes necessary for healthy weight loss, like cutting down on sugary foods or starting an activity routine, motivation often flies out the window. Instead, we brush the important reasons for losing weight under the rug while opting for a good Netflix binge or a pizza with the works.
The good news is that there are ways to build motivation. Psychologists have identified three main factors that can help you change the way you think in order to be more motivated to get things done, including reaching a healthy weight and keeping the pounds off for good.
Realize That YOU Are In Charge
Researchers have found that the perception of autonomy, or self-directed independence, predicts the amount of energy people have for pursuing a goal. In a study from the University of Rochester, researchers designed experiments using puzzle-solving activity to evaluate the effects on motivation levels when in a state of feeling controlled by an external force versus feeling self-directed. They found that the participants who were given the opportunity to choose a course of action based on their own opinions persisted longer in the puzzle-solving activity than participants who were given no choice, or pressured to pick one side over another. The researchers concluded that acting under constraints can be mentally exhausting, whereas approaching a task while feeling in charge is energizing. That is why the self-directed group did not give up as easily in solving their puzzles.
The takeaway from this study is that you should approach your weight loss goals knowing that you are in charge. It’s okay to seek guidance from experts when you need it, but everyday life decisions come down to you and only you. If you feel that you are in control of making your choices, then you should feel your motivation levels rise.
Find The Personal Value In Your Actions
It is often more difficult to find the motivation to do something if it doesn’t feel quite right. When it comes to weight loss, objectively you may not have a strong desire to make lifestyle changes like adjusting eating habits or engaging in increased physical activity. Reflecting on why these actions are meaningful could make you more motivated. Think about how much losing weight will improve your health, help you fit into and outfit, or give you more energy to play with your kids.
You can also add value by having a little bit of fun. A study published in the International Journal of Sport and Health Science classified about 500 people on a motivation scale. This included people intrinsically motivated to exercise-they did it because it was fun- and those given some outside motivation to get active. Six months into the study, those who were intrinsically motivated outnumbered those who weren’t 3 to 1. The takeaway from this study is that you should find activities you enjoy to help keep you motivated along your weight loss journey. Take running for example. You may realize that you don’t enjoy very much and quit altogether. If you try another activity like an aerobics or spinning, you may end up having so much fun that you can’t wait to get back to class!
Build A Cycle Of Competence & Action
As you devote more time to an activity, you should notice improvement in your skills. Studies have shown a strong link between competence and engagement in activity. Researchers in Greece surveyed about 900 students on their attitudes toward athletics and participation in athletic activities during a two-year period. They found that students with a high competence or expertise in an athletic skill had higher motivations levels to pursue sports. And the connection worked both ways - practice made students more likely to consider themselves competent, and a sense of competence predicted they would participate in athletic activities. Similar studies in music and academics also support these findings.
This study shows how continued practice can lead to better skills and weight loss success. For instance, the more time you spend shopping for and cooking healthier food, the more competence you should gain in your ability to eat healthier. Over time, your friends and family will be coming to you for healthy eating advice! The same can be said for exercising. As you learn to exercise correctly, you will increase your skills and build confidence, along with all-important lean muscle mass that will aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. By building competence in these types of individual building blocks, you’ll realize that you are mastering the process of weight loss, and will be motivated to continue with it throughout your life. Thomas Edison also said, “If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
So if you feel your motivation slipping away and hear the siren songs of marathon television watching or a deep dish pie, just stop and ask yourself these three things: 1) Am I in control of my choices? 2) What are my core personal values and do these activities align with them? And 3) What am I good at or what skill can I built that can take me in the right direction for weight loss? Taking inventory of these three items can do wonders for your motivation for long-term good health and wellbeing. Go ahead and try!