Struggling to find your why? Samantha Emms explores ways to get fired-up about your new eating and exercise plan and how to stay motivated.
Motivation is loosely defined as ‘purpose; drive’ – but to the average person, motivation is what gets you out of bed when you’re exhausted and has you crunching (happily) on celery sticks. Whether you choose to do BodyPump and eat quinoa, or watch Married at First Sight and get UberEats delivered, motivation helps you remember why you want to be healthy in the first place.
Without motivation there’s just old habits that make you feel as though you should be doing more – without actually doing it. When there’s no intention to act you’re in a state called amotivation.
“Resolutions are often made under the haze of New Year celebrations, the glow of having a few days off work, super high expectations, with a dash of guilt from Christmas overindulgence,” says exercise physiologist Jennifer Smallridge.
“This is where the behaviour change needs to go deeper. There needs to be a strong ‘why’. I don’t care if it’s a dress size, a wedding or a number on the scales – you need to imagine every detail, so that when the alarm goes off in the morning you know why to choose the workout over the snooze button.”
According to a study published in the Hellenic Journal of Psychology, there are three main reasons you could be unmotivated: either you lack the skills or competency to carry out the activity, you cannot see the link between the activity and the end goal, or you don’t want to act because you see no value or interest in the activity.
On keeping at it
While motivation is what inspires you, commitment is about taking that first step toward your goal.
“Any form of commitment is based on making a decision,” says clinical psychologist Dr Olga Lavalle.
“This decision involves looking at how much enjoyment you would get out of an activity, what you lose by not sticking to what you have pledged yourself to do and any sense of obligation you have.”
Some studies say that commitment can be split into multiple definitions, but what is most prevalent in science circles is the difference between ‘want to’ and ‘have to’ commitment styles.
‘Want to’ commitment relates to individuals in an attraction-based commitment. For example if you were offered a free aquaerobics class, went along for a laugh and ended up thoroughly enjoying yourself. You then commit to the class by purchasing a membership, or booking a place at ongoing classes because of the enjoyment you felt in the activity. That’s ‘want to’ commitment.
‘Have to’ commitment is when you have no choice, and reflects a feeling of entrapment. This would cover any form of prescribed eating plan that has no consideration for your tastes, lifestyle, cooking prowess or leaves you ravenous and ready to down a box of doughnuts. As you might expect, a study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine and Public Health found that when you’re in a state of ‘have to’ commitment, the commitment levels are usually very low.
In other words, finding an activity you are committed to willingly is key.
NEXT: Kick-start your healthy eating plan with these simple steps.