Motivation is a Lie and it’s Hurting Your Physical Progress


Videos, articles and feel-good speeches dealing with motivation will get you nowhere, especially when it comes to wanting to make changes for your physical betterment. Unfortunately, if you’re a person who consumes this sort of media, you’re building a shaky foundation on which all of your subsequent actions will rest. I’m not going to lie, while I have read a few “anti-motivation” blog posts over the last month, this is a topic I feel very strongly about as I see people fall into the motivation trap over and over again. Let’s get started.

What is motivation?

At a high level, it can be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior and vice versa. The urge or drive to repeat a behavior can be attributed to the biological shot of dopamine that compels us to seek rewards and to gain the perceived pleasure portrayed by whatever is being observed, read or listened to. This feeling is typically a call to action, the moment where you realize that your current situation is inadequate or lacking in some way and you decide to do something about it.

How does the average person prepare for their workout?

You’ve just finished work for the day. After glancing at the clock, you remind yourself that it’s time to hit the gym. You become aware of how fatigued you feel, both mentally and physically.

Excuses begin to flood your train of thought and your mind subconsciously begins to sow seeds of self-sabotage. Thoughts of maybe tomorrow and I’m tired begin to run rampant.

No, you reassure yourself, this week is different, I’m not going to skip any more sessions. You visit YouTube and cue up another “fitspiration” video. The grandiose, bass pumping tunes spike your excitement as you guzzle down a heavily caffeinated pre-workout laced with ingredients you’ve never heard of. You observe the individual(s) in the video, performing manoeuvres that seem to defy human logic while paying close attention to their physique; the same one you promised yourself you’d attain before the year closes out.

You’re now amped up — let’s do it, you tell yourself as you add protein powder to your shaker for later, grab your keys and leave your home or office.

Why this won’t continue to work.

If the previous paragraph resonated with you and/or you’re struggling to get into the gym — congratulations, you’re one of the majority. Even though I’m using the gym as an example in this article, feel free to insert whichever physical activity you’re actively pursuing in its place. Running? Training for a sport? Dancing? Your choice.

Regardless of your fitness goals, if you wish to make progress in what you’re doing, this behavior needs to stop.

You are attempting to formulate a habit based solely on your daily wish to operate on sheer willpower.

Read that last sentence again and understand it.

In Psychology, ego depletion refers to an idea that a finite set of mental resources can be allocated to self-control and willpower over a period of time.

There may have been a particularly intensive day at work involving mentally taxing decisions. Or even a restless night was experienced, devoid of adequate sleep. These factors work against us when we need to find the drive to physically exert ourselves. It will reach a point where you are unable to support the frame of mind fabricated through an abundance of motivational stimuli.

All those myopic new years resolutions and limply constructed fitness goals will come crashing to a halt. Trust me, it happens to all of us.

Forcing yourself to be motivated will only get you so far, however I will suggest a more methodical approach that will bring with it a new outlook. This is because without specific, feasible advice, I’ll have done nothing more than drum up some guilt, resentment or even disinterest.

Alter your physical activity habit through actions.

I now challenge you be honest with yourself and answer the following five questions:

  1. Why am I doing the activity?
  2. What steps will I take to achieve what I want?
  3. What steps will I take to allocate the required time for this?
  4. How will I hold myself accountable?
  5. How will I know if I’ve succeeded?

Sample answers can include:

  1. I’m going to the gym because I want to build muscle.
  2. I will investigate noteworthy websites that offer me a simple training framework I can begin with and build upon.
  3. To make sure I have ample time, I will forgo 45 minutes of television after work.
  4. I’ll make a commitment with a friend and go together.
  5. I’ll have gained a specific weight by a specific time.

Make the change.

It is never too late to take a step back to address these questions and objectively understand what you’re doing. Whether it is in the gym, or with any fitness related endeavor. This way, you will more likely to take action on what you want as you are acutely aware of the lifestyle upsides that are associated with it.

As a matter of fact, fitness itself can be viewed as a keystone habit— having positive carryover effects into your personal life. I’ve observed many benefits such as increased energy levels, productivity, self-confidence and general happiness.

Don’t operate on motivation, operate on the many reasons why setting measurable fitness objectives for yourself will do more for you in the long-term than any motivational content could ever do.