Are you working out for all the right reasons? What made you step into the gym (or start your run, go to a fitness class, etc.)? What’s the driving force behind your actions? Why do you want to reach your goals? In other words…
What’s Your Why?
There are two basic types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation to complete a task or reach a goal comes from an external source. For example, exercising to lose weight is said to be an extrinsic motivator. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within. You’re motivated to complete a task because it brings you joy and makes you feel good about yourself.
Turns out, your source of motivation (your why) can play a huge factor in reaching and maintaining your goals. While extrinsic motivation may work for a while, research indicates that the changes made are not permanent. Extrinsic motivators don’t change the attitudes we have toward a certain behavior. However, intrinsic motivation is reinforcing within itself. It stems from creating meaning within an activity or a task. Even if there is no monetary or physical reward, you still participate in that activity. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is not only long lasting, but also self sustaining. More often than not, highly successful people are intrinsically motivated, not extrinsically motivated.
We know that the best bet for long term change is intrinsic motivation. But how to we conjure up this intrinsic motivation? When it comes to working out, how do we turn our extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation?
- Find a source of physical activity that you love and that makes you feel good. Don’t perform in a activity just because it’s good for you or just because your favorite celebrity does it. Pick activities that make you feel strong, happy, and confident. It may take some trial and error, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Shift away from aesthetic goals. While losing weight may be a side effect of your increased physical activity, don’t let it be the only effect. Physical activity also leads to increased stamina, better sleep, increased physical strength, and higher energy levels. Therefore, it makes us feel good. Always keep this in mind.
- Beat personal records. Your only competition is yourself. Love lifting weights? Pick a goal squat weight to lift. Big time runner? Sign up for a few 5Ks and try to beat your personal best.
- Stop playing the comparison game. Don’t compare yourself to celebrities and fitness models. It only leads to decreased self-esteem and decreased intrinsic motivation
By shifting your mindset, you’ll set yourself up for success.
So we want to know – what makes you intrinsically motivated?
Written by GUADS staff member Angelina with contributions from webshare.northseattle.edu and psychestudy.com.