Why Motivation Ruins Your Success

Can you remember what first got you exercising? I do.

I was sitting in a doctor's office and being explained to me the depth of a disease that runs in my family. I don’t remember a lot about the conversation. As a 10-year-old you can imagine the magnitude of that conversation wouldn’t hit for many years. But, I remember staring at the doctor as he said these words

“If you have the disease, for those that eat well and exercise, they tend to live longer.”

That struck me.

I didn’t really do any exercise at the time, I mean I was 10 and who knows what eating healthy meant at 10. But I remember thinking about those words. I thought about them so much that on the flight home I decided that I was going to run daily.

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I did run daily. For about 6 weeks. Then it started getting cold and my bed was more inviting than the bitumen and my panting lungs.

This motivation to exercise came and went over the years and I only got motivated properly again when I was 16. This time I had decided to go join the Army. I was going to become an Infantryman, so I needed to increase my fitness. Not just running but push ups and sit ups too. I had a set number that I needed to be able to do as a minimum. Now I had a target to work with I went about testing myself.

I didn’t realise it yet, but I had found a way to turn my motivation into long-term success. You see by figuring out what I wanted to do, creating a goal, working out a plan and then turning up every day and working my ass off, I was successful.

I passed my fitness assessment with flying colours, continued on through my training with a similar attitude over my time in the defence force, and ever since. Every time I create a new goal I break it down into actionable steps, something measurable, achievable and I show up.

Psychologists call this the Theory of Planned Behaviour. It is the idea that motivation is fleeting. It is moments of heightened intent of something but that’s it.

In fact intent (read: motivation) is a lower predictor of success than those that utilise implemented intent (read: actioned motivation).

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We all go through those moments when we watch a movie, listen to a song, a YouTube clip that lends us some motivation through powerful music and words. But that isn’t our own motivation. Whilst this extrinsic motivation is great to be borrowed to help us not dig through our own intrinsic motivation stores, without an appropriate channel for this motivation to turn into a behaviour it’s power is simply lost.

This actioning of the motivation into a behaviour is an important part of the process as it reinforces the new action from a behaviour into a habit and through that successful completion, psychologically reinforced by our neurotransmitters like dopamine. Our brain rewards us for doing this.

So when I think back to those times as a teen when I was running due to some motivation that entered my mind and sparked my soul to return to this behaviour and how it waned over a few weeks, it is so clear to me as to why.

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You see it was motivation that was driving me to do these behaviours, but without a plan, a goal, something measurable and actionable I wasn’t able to complete that thought pattern within my brain circuitry to reinforce it.

It was motivation that was holding me back.

So my advice to you is to set a plan from the beginning. Figure out what success looks like to you. Determine how you’re going to track that. Then do it.

Diet Smart. Not Hard

Coach Dalton