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Forget About Motivation

I can’t say that I’ve seen everything but after 16 years of training and 10 years in the fitness business I can say I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen people of all shapes, sizes, and background succeed, fail, and everything in between. One thing I hear many people talk about is motivation. Whether they claim to be in need of it or are filling up social media sites with the latest motivational fitness memes, motivation seems to always be on the mind of new fitness participants. I find this rather amusing since it’s really not something I think about, seek, or even acknowledge on a regular basis. And while I don’t speak for all my fitness friends, I know a lot of people who have been doing this for a really long time who have never mentioned anything about motivation. So where is the disconnect?

For starters, I think people illogically liken motivation with action. In other words, unless you are motivated to do something, you won’t do it. The second issue is where people think motivation and enjoyment must be connected. Both of these are not true. I can tell you that after 16 years of working out, I have had many a day where I was not “motivated” at all to train. It was the last thing I wanted to do that day and it wasn’t any fun but I did it anyway. The reason for this is because motivation is not a constant. It is a waining, ever changing feeling (and many of you know how I feel about feelings). Therefore, if you build your health, fitness, and performance on a foundation of motivation, you will for sure find yourself struggling to maintain consistency. Instead, here is what I build my training on: accountability, standards, and legacy.

Accountability

No one wakes up every day gung ho to hit the gym and eat chicken breast, rice, and broccoli all day. We all have days where we think, “Screw this. I’m gonna have a burger and a beer.” Sometimes, that’s a valid response but the reality is that no one every accomplished anything giving up every time the path got tough and they were struggling. But few people have the ability to carry their cross alone and that’s where having some accountability comes into play. Whether you like to hit the snooze button or pass on your precooked meal you brought to work for some fried chicken corporate had catered in, having someone else that is counting on you will help keep you in line.

A couple of ways to help keep yourself accountable are hiring a coach and joining a group. I have used a nutrition coach since October of 2014 and will continue to use him for a long time. Yes, it helps to have an objective point of view and yes he is very knowledgeable but more than anything he’s expensive and I have to send him updates every week (I use Shelby Starnes). This keeps me in line and keeps me from straying too far off my path. Whether you have an online coach or someone you see in person, making a monetary commitment and having someone expect certain actions from you can help steer you in the right direction. Having a group to train with makes a huge difference as well. It’s kind of hard to resist peer pressure, so when a group of people expect you to be somewhere and act a certain way, you’re more likely to follow the group’s lead.

When temptation creeps in, find someone other than yourself you need to be accountable to.

Standards

When I was in personal finance in college they made us do an exercise where we had to lay out what kind of life we wanted to live. What kind of house we wanted to live in, what kind of car we wanted to drive, what kind of vacations we wanted to go on. Then we had to create a personal budget to determine how much money we needed to live that lifestyle; we were establishing our standards of living. Likewise, everyone should have some standards of living that go beyond just the financial part of life. I have personal standards for health and fitness that I expect myself to live by. I know there will come a day where my strength will decrease, where I will start to lose muscle, and my skin will sag. But I don’t ever want to be weak, skinny, fat, or out of shape. Now, my definitions for those terms are going to be different than other people’s and that’s okay. You should have your own standards. I don’t hold myself to your standards and likewise you shouldn’t hold yourself to mine. But setting some standards to operate your life off of will help keep you in the right direction when you have tough decisions to make. Realizing that every decision you make will add up one day will help keep you from skipping the gym or consistently eating poorly. Does it have that big an affect right now? No. But if you continue making those decisions you’re going to see them add up in a monumental way down the road.

Legacy

One day you’re gonna go into the dirt and people will tell stories of you. What do you want on your tombstone? What do you want to pass onto your children? How do you want to be remembered? I will tell you I have a lot of bad traits and unfortunately my kids are going to get some of those but hopefully they will get my work ethic, my perseverance, and my passion. If they get those than I think they will be okay in life. If your tombstone told your approach to life, what would it say right now? Quitter? Complainer? Excuse maker? I don’t want those things on my tombstone. The idea of leaving being a legacy, even if a small one is a very powerful idea to me. Hopefully when I pass, people will say “Sometimes David was a bit of an asshole but he helped me do great things.” And because of that, that person will then be able to help someone else do great things as well.

If you are new to this fitness thing, ride your motivational high as long as you can. But one day, when it begins to falter, realize that motivation is not the gasoline needed to fuel your fire. Realize that there are far more powerful tools out there that can keep your engine cranking even after your motivational spark has burned out.

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