Research has shown that extrinsic motivation only keeps us motivated in the short term, and the key to long-term health and fitness results.
January 19, 2023

Are you struggling to achieve your goals? Shifting your mindset to an intrinsic approach may be your missing link!

Health and wellness goals are different for everyone, but the most common goal for initiating a new fitness or nutrition program is the desire to look a certain way to try to appeal to others, or win competitions. While visible goals are attainable and can be motivational, they can take months to years to achieve, making it easy to lose motivation when results are not immediate. Research has shown that extrinsic motivation only keeps us motivated in the short term, and the key to long-term results is finding and utilizing intrinsic motivation.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something because it matters to you, because you enjoy it and how it makes you feel, and because it allows you to be a part of something important. These motivators are a part of how you think and approach your training or nutrition plan and have a greater overall effect on your stamina and drive to overcome and continue to be successful in your journey.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from external factors such as receiving a prize or a reward, gaining likes on social media, or receiving compliments. These examples of motivation are temporary and reliant on other people, yet they are so often how we measure our success in the health and fitness arena.

There is nothing wrong with being extrinsically motivated, but it is essential to identify what motivates you and how you can implement motivational tools to reach your goals while building a healthy approach toward achievement.

Breaking Down Intrinsic Motivation

There are three key factors in developing intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy is having the urge to direct your own life and make independent choices that align with your goals and lifestyle rather than doing something to please others. Self-direction is key to your overall engagement in your goals. Making choices that align with your goals can be challenging, but the more comfortable you become in choosing your own direction, the easier it becomes.

Mastery involves the desire to get better and better at something that matters to you. Even your coaches have goals and are constantly working towards a higher level of excellence in their personal lives and their profession. Working towards mastery allows you to devise small wins that demonstrate success as you improve, and compound those wins into a much larger, long-term achievement of something important to you.

Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. In health and wellness that can look like meeting health goals that will extend your overall life so you can be there for your children and grandchildren or leading life by example to cultivate a healthier lifestyle for your family.

Developing Intrinsic Motivation

Learning what matters most to you is the first step in developing intrinsic motivation. The things that matter most to you will most likely also be unique to you. If you have received Nutrition Coaching through GSC, you have probably heard your coaches reference your "why." Your "why" is your internal motivator - your emotional connection to your goals. To figure out what your "why" is for any given goal, you must reflect and identify how achieving that goal will make you feel, and its importance to you.

Many of us join a gym because society and science say it's good for our health, it will make us fit, and we want to look good on the beach by the time summer rolls around. The problem is that those external motivators probably aren't strong enough to hold off the negative talk we experience regularly: it's too early, it's too cold, I'll do it tomorrow, I don't want to eat leftovers, I'd rather go out with my friends, etc. In order to maintain consistency, there needs to be a mindset shift. The best way to create that shift is to ask yourself: how will working out today make me feel? After you finish a workout, take a moment to consider how you feel. Good? Accomplished? Proud?  Those are the emotions that will fuel your motivation and help you maintain consistency on the tough days. Consider your autonomy, mastery, and purpose: your decision to go to the gym was beneficial to your health, being coached helped you take a step toward bettering your fitness skills, and you improved your overall mental health.

It is not uncommon that as we learn more about ourselves through challenges and perseverance, our goals shift and with it our motivations. As long as you can redevelop your emotional connection to your goal, cultivating intrinsic motivation won't be a problem.

Get Motivated!

Fueling your mindset is just as important as showing up. Creating and utilizing intrinsic motivation will strengthen your internal composure, and your ability to build consistency, and perseverance when things get tough. If you are not sure where to begin or would like some additional mindset coaching, reach out to a Graham Strength & Conditioning coach today!

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