Body/Fitness Tips

Commitment vs. Motivation

It’s what you do, not how you feel.

There is a lot of talk about motivation in the nutrition and exercise arenas. “Stay motivated!” and “Keep your motivation up with X, Y, and Z!” or “Don’t let your motivation die.” I, quite frankly, think this advice hinders more than it helps. I also think that motivation is over-rated and that you don’t actually need it to make changes in your life…including food lifestyle changes, weight changes, health changes, and any other kind of change.

First, let’s take a look at the word “motivation.” There are many definitions, but the one that I like the best, because it’s short, sweet, and accurate, comes from a psychology website: “motivation is literally the desire to do things.” Well, I don’t know about you folks, but there are plenty of things in my life, that are important to me, that I am not motivated to do all the time. I desire the end result, but I don’t always desire to do the work I have to do to get the end result. Further, motivation is often discussed as coming from outside oneself, which would change our definition to “motivation is something that we get from books, videos, or other people that gives us desire to do things.” This particular way of looking at motivation is not only common, but it’s self-defeating. Because then, when you can’t “find” motivation, you “fall of the wagon” and lose sight of your goals. And, you may chalk it up to “well, I can’t lose this weight because I can’t seem to stay motivated…I just don’t have the motivation that other people have.”

Folks, motivation isn’t necessary for an action to take place. How you feel (desire) is NOT the same as what you do. And, in order for “what you do” to be moving you toward your goals requires two things: commitment and an action plan. Commitment is different than motivation. The definition of commitment is “the act of dedicating, pledging or engaging oneself.” It’s not about feelings, it’s about dedication. I may not always FEEL like working out at 6AM, or like making a healthy dinner for my family after a long day of work…definitely not always motivated in either of those departments. But I AM committed to both. And, I have action plans in place to keep my actions and my goals aligned. My 58-year-old neighbor gets up and runs 5 miles every morning, completely regardless of weather or anything else. Truthfully, sometimes when I pass her on the way to work, and it’s 33 degrees and sleeting sideways and the roads are a slippery mess, I slow down and roll down my window and harass her: “Dude!  You’re going to break your neck! Then you really won’t be able to run.” She just smiles, as best she can with the sleet pelting her eyeballs…and keeps running. Now I KNOW she doesn’t FEEL like doing that every day…she may not be feeling motivated. But she’s committed.

So, in my daily clinical work in my practice, we talk a lot about commitment…commitment to oneself. Motivation comes and goes, but commitment, by definition, stays in place. So, once you’re committed, it’s all about figuring out a plan to back up your commitment to yourself. An action plan that will support your goals. And an action plan should be action-oriented rather than results-oriented. “Losing 25 pounds” is a goal…a result. Lovely thought, but rather nebulous. “Walking 20 minutes per day, 4 days a week” is an ACTION. Start with something easy. Pick a small doable goal like “I’ll do one set of crunches before I shower every morning” or “I will have two fresh vegetables with dinner 5 nights a week.” Now, don’t try to change a thing about your feelings…let those be however they are. Contrary to what most folks think, the feelings often change as a result of the action…not the other way around. Once you see yourself staying committed to your action plan, you often end up “feeling” differently about it anyway! “Hey, look at me!  I’ve got commitment in spades. I’m important to myself.  Woo-hoo!!” Then you can throw back your head and roar and thump your chest. Just a note, you may not want to do that last part in public…or if you do, please make sure I’m nearby so I can have fun watching people’s reactions. Anyhow, after you’re done celebrating everything that is YOU and what a rockstar you are, realize that you have taken the first step toward changing your life. And that you’ve released yourself from the illusion of motivation.

Goal. Commitment. Action plan to reach goal.  It’s really that simple

-From our dear friend Laurie Warren of Warren Wellness. Check out her site dedicated to whole nutrition for health and healing!