Conquer – The Truth About Motivation

6:20 AM. Only slept about 5 hours. Do I want to work out right now? No. Is it Leg Day again? Yes.

Sh!t. It’s gonna be one of those days.

I would honestly love nothing more right now than to just go back to bed, pretend it’s a rest day, and just relax. I’m tired. I don’t feel like it. Wah. I just lack motivation right now. As I sit here writing an article for my fitness blog. Ironic.

Or is it? How many people out there in fitness land suffer from this exact same issue at LEAST every once in a while? How about every day? How do people motivate themselves to continually plug away at it. Day in and day out. Throwing themselves at a workout, hurling themselves down the pavement, turning on that motor that never seems to run out of gas?

Maybe it’s the knowledge that if we don’t get moving – if we don’t kick-start ourselves – we’ll regret it later. This is a post both for the fitness freaks and the workout newbies. Why? Because we all fight the Siren‘s Call of our pillow, of the couch, of anything that ISN’T our running shoes, dumbbells, bike…or otherwise sweat-related item.

In my last post (Defeating Demotivators #1 – The Fear Monster) I mentioned that for newbies or pre-newbies suffering from The Fear Monster being surrounded by positivity and encouragement was key to getting them to stick with it. I said it was incredibly important to be gentle. What about for those of us who are already hardcore into fitness? Or who have broken past the fear barrier and do work?

 We reach a point where “gentle” doesn’t WORK anymore.

Sometimes a soft nudge doesn’t do it anymore. Let’s be real – if you’re that guy on the lookout for people who can’t get the courage to work out, if you’re the person helping others…and YOU can’t get yourself to the gym / road / mat / etc…maybe a shove is more like it.

Or maybe it’s not.

What really motivates people?

I am not a psychologist, but there is a real psychological science to motivation. This, above, is called Maslow’s Hierarcy of Needs (created by Abraham Maslow – an American Psychologist). It breaks down the structure of people’s motivation. It’s not designed around fitness, but we can definitely apply it for our purposes. People work out for different reasons, and I would say these reasons all fall into the top four parts of the pyramid. Moving forward, an important principle of this hierarchy is to understand that Maslow said people will be more motivated to fulfill lower-order needs before higher-order ones – we’ll also assume that you’re properly fed, hydrated and rested so we can ignore the bottom tier (I’m REALLY simplifying this).

Safety Needs – This is INTENDED to talk about people taking care of their own personal safety and security – ensuring they are not in immediate danger. Makes sense, right? Tough to paint a picture if someone’s pointing a gun at your head. That’s the idea here. Let’s adapt this tier for fitness.

This is where people who have a dire health issue from lack of fitness/nutrition get their motivation. When your doctor looks you in the face and tells you that you’re so overweight you’re going to get diabetes and potentially lose your sight or your foot…well I think that’s enough motivation to get to the gym, don’t you? These people generally don’t need much more of a kick in the pants than that. I was not quite that large, so this wasn’t enough for me.

Belongingness and Love Needs – This is people’s need for friends, intimate relationships, love, etc. We are social creatures, and once we’ve taken care of the basic “survival” needs of food/water/rest and the safety need of not being in immediate danger we move on to the need for other people.

This is one of the biggest motivators out there. This is why Crossfit is so successful. This is why so many people can’t get off their butts and do work without a workout partner. People need people. So many people can’t/won’t do it for themselves, but if they can become accepted and part of a community…we have found the key to the kingdom. Crossfit (from my outsider perspective) is a community of people helping each other and kicking each other’s butts into gear. People like to be a part of something. That’s why people join clubs in school. If you know the other guy is going to give you a whole world of hassle for not showing up at the gym today, YOU’RE GONNA GO. People who feel they are physically unattractive and want to be able to land a girlfriend/boyfriend would also fall into this category, but I am inclined to think most people who feel they are physically unattractive fall into the next tier.

Esteem Needs – This tier is about people who have met the basic survival needs, who feel like they belong and have their people-needs met (for the most part, at least) and can focus on themselves. They can make themselves feel better. They can focus on their own self-esteem.

These are the people who are not happy with the picture in the mirror. These are the people who want that ripped six-pack and are tired of the gut. The people who want to accomplish something. These people sometimes need the MOST motivation of all, because in general…they’re pretty satisfied. I’m pretty sure I fall into this category. The health issue wasn’t enough for me, I was already in a committed relationship and had friends and family all around me, so I know it wasn’t the other two tiers. So how do I know I’m not the next tier? There are days when I’m just not feeling it. I don’t WANNA. I’ll be bold and say that these are the people who, when they don’t get off their butts, need a swift kick in the tail to get moving. These are the people who can do it, who usually want to do it, and generally are doing it – for themselves. When you’re not doing it for someone else, for acceptance, for belonging…it’s easy to skip a day. When you’re the only one holding you accountable you’re more inclined to cut yourself some slack. It’s OK…you’ve been working hard. You deserve a break. I won’t tell the boss.

GARBAGE.

Get up. GET OUT. And do work.  You’re not going to feel TRULY FULFILLED unless you go do that workout! Run that 5 miler. Whatever it is, it’s for you. Make you happy. Because, really…

Your excuse is invalid.
Self-Actualization – This tier is my favorite. The whole rest of the pyramid has been “extrinsic” motivation – people getting their motivation from outside sources. Something is pushing them to do their workout. People who are in the self-actualization tier are doing it from a completely intrinsic motivation. 

These people love to work out. They are doing it for the sheer joy of it. They’re trying to reach their full potential. They’re trying to make their masterpiece. They don’t need a self-esteem boost – they’re already awesome. They don’t need acceptance. They’re not facing a health risk. These are the “obsessed nutballs” who do an hour workout, run 5 miles in record time then come back and DO ANOTHER WORKOUT. They are climbing Mt. Freaking Everest and loving every minute of it. If you are one of these people, congratulations my friend – 
You have reached the mountaintop.
I HOPE that I get to this point. Yes, I really enjoy the workout program I’m doing right now. Body Beast is freaking AWESOME. It is, however, still work. And work sucks. For the “obsessed nutballs”, workouts are not work at all. They are fun. They are playtime. They are recreation.
Whatever tier you fall into, whatever it is that motivates you…one thing holds true for everyone:
You need to get out there and DO IT. 
Be healthy. Be accepted. Be happy. Be awesome.  
 Take today by the balls and own it.