Physical Health

The Answer to Your Lack of Motivation

February 16, 2012

A common excuse that people cite for not eating right and exercising is that they are “just not motivated.”  But what exactly is motivation?  According to Merriam Webster, motivation means to “provide with an incentive, impel or stimulate to action—to give a reason.”

Now realistically, how motivated are you to get out of bed, run to schoolor work, do the dishes and the laundry, fix the car, go to the dentist and clean up after your kids? The list of non-compelling activities you do on a daily basis in endless. So is it really a lack of motivation that’s holding you back from exercise? Or, put differently, is it really a strong sense of reason that compels you to do most things?

Even a 30 minute moderate walk does wonders for your health.  Just a few small changes in your diet – like adding some more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, cutting back on the unhealthy snacks and trans-fats – enhances your wellbeing.  Yet, only a small part of the population actually makes these changes.

Lately, even monetary prizes have been used in reality shows to get people to lose weight. But its effects, if any, are short-lived.

We know what is good for us and what isn’t, yet the number of people who smoke, overeat and are sedentary remains significant. So as far as motivation goes, it can be a great thing if you’re able to attain it.  But for most, motivation only goes so far, if it goes anywhere at all.

So that leaves us with a question:  If we know that we need to take care of ourselves but all traditional motivators aren’t doing it for us, what now?

The answer is: Do it anyway. Take care of yourself anyway. Make. Healthy. Choices. Anyway.

If you are late for school or work, you face the teacher or boss. If you let the dishes pile up, you’ll have a big mess and no clean dishes. If you ignore the car problems, you‘ll have no choice but to walk everywhere! (On second thought…maybe don’t fix the car.)

So you do these things.  Even though you’re not terribly thrilled about it.  And usually you feel better after you finish a task or chore—you feel accomplished and you function better.

Just as there are consequences when you arrive late to work, there are consequences when you don’t take care of yourself.  Arguably, the consequences when it comes to health are much more serious.Thus, while you may not be motivated to eat right and exercise, it is wise to  – you got it – do it anyway.  With non-negotiable baby steps:  A ten-minute walk during lunch.  Three fruits a day.  A granola bar instead of a cookie.  Once you start moving in the right direction, things become easier.  Your self-discipline is enhanced.

And, ironically enough, your motivation will increase.  When you begin to notice how great you feel and look, you will be much more inclined to pursue healthy habits.

We do mitzvot even if we aren’t “motivated” to do them.  Taking care of our health is a mitzvah.  So it is something we do anyway. As the verse goes: Mitoch SheLo Lishma, Ba Lishma.  When we do things consistently, even without proper intent, eventually we can come to do them ideally.  So, too, here: even though motivation may start out low, if you keep up the actions, the motivation and self-discipline will eventually kick in.

Which means that once you get a taste of good health, you may not need to do it anyway – you’ll want to do it.  Because you’ve found your incentive: you feel amazing.

Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle Fitness Coach with over 16 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight-loss and stress-reduction center Lose It! He can be reached at 02-651-8502, 050-555-7175, on his USA Line 1-516-568-5027, or by email at alan@loseit.co.il.