Scott McDermott: The trick about motivation you might not know

How would you like the know the secret to motivation that almost everyone gets wrong?

I have trouble getting/staying motivated. I just don’t have enough willpower.

Have you ever heard that said? Perhaps even said it yourself? It is probably one of the most common things I hear for a reason as to why people find fitness and eating well a challenge. How would you like the know the secret to motivation that almost everyone gets wrong?

First off, what is motivation?

It is a noun and is “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.” Or, “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” Other words to describe motivation can be: enthusiasm, drive, ambition, initiative, determination, enterprise.

So you can see how people might think that motivation is something they ‘don’t have’ or ‘need to get’. The problem is motivation is hardly ever external. Yes, it’s true that you can have an external motivation, but only for a short time.

If you really do not want to do something but someone nags you, harasses you or makes a bet with you then you can maybe start something and maybe succeed, but if that external motivation ends, is negative or is something you resent, you will find a way to stop doing what you do not like.

People say, “I would get in shape if I was motivated. I would eat better if I had some motivation.” Would you like to know that secret I spoke of? First off, the ‘people’ have it backwards.

The secret is: You have to start something first and then you get the motivation. By simply starting, a whole piles of others momentum fires up in your favour. It follows the old rule of Newton in that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. So getting started is always the hardest part.

What if your goal was to start working out and you could just get yourself to the gym once? First off, by starting that goal, you will get a little bit of a success thrill from just doing that first thing. That alone can make you feel great, which will (here it comes) motivate you to do that again tomorrow!

Then if you do it again tomorrow, you will become more motivated by your string of two days. You resolve to make it three, then five. Before you know it, a week goes by then two soon a month. Now you start to not only feel better, but your energy sparks up a bit. You meet a few really cool people that you enjoy talking with. You saw someone that looks like you, but more fit and you are once again motivated to keep going.

Now look… I am not so blind that I think it’s all this simple. There has to be something else, because we all know someone who has gone through the above motions, but then fallen off the plan again…. and again and again.

This is where rituals come in to play. Rituals are by definition: “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.”

If you know anything about me, you know I race ultra distance triathlons. My favourite race is over 500km long. I need to train around 20 to 25 hours a week. Quite often, I do not feel like going to the pool at 5:30 a.m., for a run late at night or to sit on an stationary bike in winter for eight hours.

So how do I do that? Rituals. My alarm goes off with Pharrell Williams singing the ‘happy’ song. I have my gear all pre laid out beside the bed so I do not have to think. No excuses. I grab my gear and grab my first snack of the day, often a banana and a glass of water.

If it is a run I put my gear on my shoes, my headphones and I walk outside to start my warm up drills. It’s automatic, like a robot, no thinking required. The chatter in my head might be telling me I am too tired, to go back to bed, but I just tell myself, “I will do the warm up drills and see how I feel.”

My run warm up drills are one of my key rituals. I do them every time I run. I also have rituals for setting up my bike and for swimming. By doing the same low key, easy, simple rituals every time there is no fear or resistance.

By the time you are up to speed, you will be in the mood and motivation will come flooding through. That’s the key. The key to starting, is to have a ritual. Plan the ritual in advance, make it simple, set it in stone on your calendar and you will harness all the motivation you will ever need.

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Happy Training!

Scott