- Youth Mental Health Association
Tips on keeping motivation consistent
TW: Disordered eating
We all experience bursts of motivation, such as suddenly being motivated to get up at 5 am and go for a run, or to go on a strict no-carb diet, then we end up giving up soon after with this sudden drastic change. I’ve experienced these bursts of motivation myself, especially in my journey of eating with yo-yo dieting, and have ended up binge eating from such a severe nutrient restriction and repeating this endless cycle.
I think we all know the term extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. I am going to tie this into my personal experiences. During my distorted dieting phase, I was simply trying to eat in a way that would make me skinny compared to everyone else, which was essentially a reward for me. This to me is an example of extrinsic motivation, which is when “we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity”, not from enjoyment but by the expectation to “receive something or avoid something unpleasant” (verywellmind.com). This March, I started running and training for a 5k race because every time I ran, I always felt clear minded and felt so much better afterwards. This would be an example of intrinsic motivation, which is participating in an activity “for its own sake, and the behavior itself is its own reward” (verywellmind.com). It may seem like intrinsic motivation is the best type of motivation, but extrinsic motivation is also important in certain situations, such as it acts as a source of feedback, and motivates people to acquire new skills or knowledge in the beginning.
According to Scott H Young, the Wall Street Journal best selling author, the two different kinds of reasons for failure to motivate ourselves include firstly a lack of drive and secondly pain from progress. If the goal is for example a “socially internalized norm”, it may lead to inconsistent motivation with only work done at a certain amount to fulfill others’ eyes, without achieving our full potential. An example of pain from progress is boredom, which results in procrastination.
According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, a book that I just finished reading about habit change (and which I HIGHLY recommend), says that “Every choice has a price, but when we are motivated, it is easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the pain of remaining the same”.
Some tips that James Clear had mentioned have already helped me which include:
1.Setting a schedule
-I have certain times that I like to exercise, and when I work (at my peak performances) and times I relax. This way, I am able to consistently stick to my schedule and see improvements. Of course, life gets in the way so it is important to give ourselves some mercy.
2.Having a ritual
-Before bed, I set out work out clothes for the next day, and after I exercise then shower, I make sure to write in my journal, and I have a night routine that will allow me to get to bed.
3.Making your tasks to the right degree of difficulty
-I can compare this to running and training for a marathon. I slowly built up my durations as my endurance built up each week, allowing me to challenge myself and also to feel that “runner’s high”.
I think the biggest challenge for me when motivating myself was constantly comparing myself with others. What really helped me was thinking about how I should only compare myself to who I was yesterday, and trying to be a better version of myself overall, not just for the validation of others because I know myself best, and I know the person who I am capable of becoming despite the labels or judgments of others. I think it is so important to give yourself love and to do all with grace, and to remember that the difficult days when you showed up for yourself are important victories that are worth celebrating.