Why do I feel so energized when watching sports or the next episode of my new favourite Netflix series, yet I feel so unmotivated to get outside for an evening walk? Why do some people appear to be so committed & motivated to achieve their goals while others struggle to stick to the simplest routine?
“To be motivated means to be moved to do something” – (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 54)
Motivation is the driving force that pushes us to engage in a behaviour. This force influences how much effort we put in, how much time we spend on that behaviour (intensity), how long we stick with the behaviour (persistence), as well as what behaviour we choose to engage in. But where does motivation come from? How do we motivate ourselves?
Our life experiences can help us understand motivation better. Look back at times in your life when you felt truly motivated and those times where you felt very unmotivated. Can you think of examples? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.
You have probably thought of examples for both feelings of motivation and feelings of no motivation (aka amotivation). As you have probably figured out, motivation is both person AND context (time, space, and place) specific. While your friend may be very motivated to wake up at 5:30am to do an early morning run or walk, you may feel no such urge. At the same time, you may feel much more inclined to do an intense hike on Saturdays, while others prefer that the weekends are entirely made to rest & relax.
Psychologists have explored many different ideas to learn more about what factors influence our feelings of motivation. There are many different theories on motivation in sport that can be applied to maintaining a physically active lifestyle!
Current theories recognize that our feelings of motivation depend on our personality AND our environment. Rather than one person who is motivated and another who is not, it’s an interaction between us and the people and circumstances we are in. This is good news! You are NOT an unmotivated person. Instead, you need to find an environment that suits your personality and inspires you to reach your goals. For example, I need to ensure I do my workout earlier in the day, because I recognize that I always feel less than enthusiastic about exercising in the evening.
Motivation is the interaction between personal characteristics and the environment you are in. You are NOT an unmotivated person. Instead, you need to find the environment that suits your personality and inspires you.
What kind of environment will motivate you to engage in physical activity? This is obviously different for each person, but if you need ideas, consider these questions. Think of a time when you felt proud of yourself and accomplished. What made you feel proud and accomplished?
Motivation research suggests that experiences that make us feel confident and give us a sense of control increase our motivation to engage further in that behaviour. In addition, getting positive feedback on our work helps encourage and inspire us to continue working. Surround yourself with people and situations that will give you the positive feedback you need to continue to be physically active. Sometimes seeing someone else achieve success can help motivate you to do the same!
Talk to and encourage yourself! Though it may feel silly, when you encourage yourself, and admire your own accomplishments, you can foster a positive environment. After all, if you are your own worst critic, your approval for yourself can make an important difference in the thoughts you have towards the behaviour you are implementing.
Inspired? Find an environment that supports you & believe in yourself! You can then use your newfound motivation to accomplish your goals.
References: Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020