Determination (quality): the strength within yourself to carry on (even when things get tough)

Motivation (a reason/desire/willingness to do something): the reason you have for being a certain way or carrying out certain tasks

“You are the architect of your own life” Dr Rangan Chatterjee

You may agree with this statement, or you may feel that there are factors in our lives that we can’t control; that may be true, but what you can control is how you react to those things that weren’t part of your plan.  Motivation and determination play a big part in our everyday lives and are key players in helping us grow and develop who we are and what we do. Like many other things they are not constant, peaks and troughs of motivation will accompany you throughout each and every day both at work and in your personal life.  There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is present when we are taking part in activities that we enjoy – we don’t need determination to help us along the way here as we want to do it.  We sometimes need a boost from outside ourselves though which is where extrinsic motivation comes into play such as rewarding yourself with a treat for getting that exercise done!

Research has shown that when our motivation is low it can affect our physiological and psychological wellbeing.  Stop for a moment and think about your approach to exercise, do you make excuses as to why you can’t get active or does life get in the way?  Take a minute to think about how your inner voice speaks to you: do you tell yourself that you should or have to exercise or that you want to exercise; both phrases have very different effects on how we might react to the task at hand and could affect your levels of motivation. There are always going to be perceived obstacles to things we need to do – consider how you handle obstacles that prevent you from doing what you want to do, its likely that you will think creatively and find ways of getting round it; this is intrinsic motivation and determination in action. The trick then may be to apply these strategies to achieve the things we need to do as well.   

Ok, so we’ve identified what drives us and had a moment to reflect on our own personal situation.  Following are some suggestions that might help you gain control of your mindset.

When you’re in the zone and motivation is high, take a moment to note the positives about how that exercise is making you feel – it could be an audio notebook on your device or written down: have you enjoyed the buzz of feeling competitive with yourself or others (secretly or unabashedly!); received compliments from others, taken another step towards a long-term goal; achieved something new because of your fitness level or helped encourage someone else for example.  On days when that motivation is waning and you need to call on determination, revisit these notes to remind yourself that the effort will be worth it.

On the flip side – take note of what you do and how you feel if you can’t motivate yourself to exercise  and try to identify what is stopping you from getting that exercise session done; it might be feeling tired or overwhelmed with work or life pressures for example or if you’re just starting out, a fear of getting something wrong or anxiety about the fitness environment you’ve chosen.  Note how you feel when you miss a session – do you experience feelings of disappointment and frustration and end up eating foods that you know aren’t good for you?  Revisit these notes too on the days when motivation is escaping you.

Top tips to help you stay motivated:

  • Put your exercise plan in your diary.
  • Workout to your favourite music.
  • Re-visit your goals: are they realistic? If not, think about breaking them down into smaller steps.
  • Keep your exercise routine varied to avoid getting bored.  Make it something you want rather than have to do.
  • Prioritise your fitness time – remember that keeping fit and healthy means you can continue doing more of the other things you love.
  • Find an accountability buddy to accompany you as you exercise or just to check in that you’re doing what you set out to do!