Article can be found in its original form on my website: fifslife.com
For those of you who know me personally and follow my personal account, you will know that I am very much into the sport of weightlifting. I like to share videos of me training; the good, the bad and the ugly. While I showcase my highlights, I also try to let people see my failures and my mental state through these videos, because it’s not always positive (which many fitness pages would have you believe).
I have been asked a few times; “how do you stay motivated to train after a long day at work?”, “how do you have the energy to train?”. Truth is - I don’t. It’s not motivation that people should be chasing, because that comes and goes. It’s determination that gets people through. It is so much easier for me to tell myself “you’ve had a stressful day, maybe skip this session”, or “I’m too tired to lift weights today” (Disclaimer: it’s important to listen to your body when you’re sick or injured. In this example, I am talking about mental fatigue from the daily grind). But the feeling I get after getting sh*t done is much more rewarding than lying down in bed. It’s much more rewarding to know that I was able to push through mental barriers that I created, which makes me a stronger version of myself. I also know (from experience) that if I did succumb to my inner demons, that I would kick myself for the whole evening for going home and not training. It’s when you really don’t want to train that you should actually get it done. That’s where the real mental (and surprisingly, physical) gains are made. As cliche as it is, you really can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. The mind is the most powerful tool we have. It can be used against us or to our advantage. Every time you overcome your negative thoughts, you become more disciplined.
“Discipline” and “determination” are the words we probably should be using instead of “motivation”. Discipline is what carries you through when you have no motivation. Determination (or sometimes sheer stubbornness) is what will help you to achieve what you originally set out to do, when every cell in your brain is yelling “CBF!”.
Our bodies can and will do anything we want it to - it’s our brain that stops us. Our brain is a clever thing. It keeps us safe. It sets the parameters of what is safe and not. Pain and discomfort, regardless of how harmful it actually is to us will almost always make our brain tell us to stop whatever it is we’re doing. Comfort = safety. Safety = happy brain. But the brain cannot always decipher serious pain and injury from temporary, harmless discomfort e.g. going for a run, or doing some heavy squats (with good technique, of course).
The brain’s safety mechanism can’t always be the one to blame for our lack of action. Sometimes it is our ego. Ego gets in the way of us putting ourselves into vulnerable situations. “It looks too hard”, “what if I fail?”, “what if I make a fool of myself?” and so on, are all thoughts that stem from the ego. Sometimes, we need to put our ego in check and think, f*** it! What do I actually have to lose? I often need to remind myself that there is no such thing as failure, only lessons and experiences.
If you’re still trying to will your brain into doing something that you want to do, start small. Put small plans in place to help you to be successful. For me, in the case of my training, I will pack my workout bag the night before and leave it by the front door along with a snack, setting the intention that tomorrow, I will go straight from my last client to the gym. Even if my brain contests, I will go. Even if it contests during my workout, I will finish it. I have never completed a workout and thought “that was a waste of time, should’ve stayed home” (don’t ask me what is going through my head DURING the workout though). One more example that is not exercise-related: I had set myself the goal to read more books this year. Leaving the book on my bedside table didn’t work. So instead, I put the book in my bathroom to read in place of scrolling through socials on my phone (don’t judge, I know most of you do this), and I leave my phone out of reach.
Find what works for you. Motivation is great and all, but determination and discipline is what will get you over that line. If you feel comfortable, leave a comment about what works for you, or share what you’re currently struggling with. There is strength in numbers.
You’ve got this!
Motivation is what got you started. Habit is what keeps you going. - Mahatma Gandhi