WHAT’S THE POINT?
When we give up on a goal or decide to quit something that is good for us, we more often than not cite a ‘loss of motivation’ as the major cause for why we decided to stop. The reality that many of us don’t realise, or choose to ignore, is that motivation actually has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is in fact a lack of purpose or a poor misguided plan that causes us to quit.
If you want something badly enough, such as avoiding early death by extreme overfatness, you certainly should never feel unmotivated to avoid a terrifying fate like that. Yet for some strange reason so many people are on that path and don’t seem too motivated to change direction.
Most obese people don’t want to die an early death because of their obesity. They’re desperate not to. The reason people are struggling isn’t because they can’t stay motivated long enough, that’s ridiculous. The reason is one (or both) of two things:
- They are completely naive to the seriousness of their impending fate and feel as though they have plenty of time to fix the problem. It’s tomorrow’s problem and they’ll deal with it then.
- They are unable to connect their purpose with a plan that will actually work, be sustained and provide them with all the motivation they need to succeed.
I don’t have an answer for reason 1. The thought of being a patient in a hospital for even the smallest of problems terrifies me enough into wanting to be healthy. I am too shit scared of having tubes coming out of me to allow myself to reach such a poor position of health that it becomes a reality. That thought alone gives me all the purpose I need to lead some level of a healthy life. Clearly that isn’t enough for many people.
As you can see, the pure fact that I am terrified of hospitals has provided me with some level of purpose. This purpose motivates me to be healthy to a level that will lower my chances of ending up in a hospital. But I do have more purpose beyond avoiding chronic disease…
I also want to be the sort of dad that can jump on the trampoline, wrestle, play sport and be as active as possible with my daughter. This purpose provides me the motivation to be even more healthy and have an increased level of fitness. But I do have more purpose beyond being an active dad…
I like to feel strong and capable of just about any task. If a mate asks me to help him move house, I want to be bloody good at it, not huffing and puffing and cursing my aching back. If an obstacle race pops up and a friend wants me to join them, I want to be able to just say “I’m in!” and off we go. I don’t want to do two trips from the car with the shopping, my laptop bag and Harper’s school bag, I want to be capable of carrying all that shit in one beastly hit! This purpose provides me the motivation to be strong and skilled. But I do have more purpose beyond being more capable of strong and fit stuff…
I am a competitive bugger and I currently play Aussie Rules Football. When I am not playing football I’ll enter into the odd CrossFit competition or two. I thrive off competition and love the work that goes into being as fit as possible and performing as well as possible. I’m no elite athlete, but I’m no chump either. This love for competitive sport provides all the purpose I need to be motivated enough to compete at the level I enjoy and am interested in competing at.
I hope you all recognise there is not only multiple purposes for me wanting to be fit and healthy, but there is a progression. When it comes to the misguided plan I mentioned at the beginning, this is where people falter.
Some people wish to lose weight, but define absolutely no purpose at all when they begin to try to lose weight. Or they choose a currently unrealistic goal for their current situation. They choose to not identify deeply enough how much it means to them to get their health back and why they need to do so. Instead just speaking of beach bodies and abs and using unrealistic “fitspo’s” to try and motivate them. What they don’t realise is that their fitspo’s health and fitness purpose is vastly different to their own. Currently their purpose should really be more similar to my first 2 purposes, to avoid chronic disease and to be a parent that can do more than just watch their kids play. Whereas their fitspo’s are likely to be looking to win on the bodybuilding stage, win an athletic competition or gain another modelling contract. The purposes of the fitspo and the overweight person using the fitspo as a fitspo don’t match up. We can’t leap ahead to playing a high level sport when we currently don’t even know how to manage our food and don’t really want to exercise. We can certainly set the goal and aspire, but we need to focus on right now first.
It is very hard to maintain motivation when you can’t even see the goalposts.
This often happens in the world of fitness modelling and even in CrossFit. In the bodybuilding and fitness modelling scenario, it usually starts with the unassuming gym member just working on her fitness. She’s got a pretty good level of fitness and is quite healthy. She joined the gym purely because she wants to get a bit leaner, wants to feel more comfortable at the beach and enjoys playing mixed netball with her friends. She’s made some good progress so far and is looking to find ways to further improve. Next minute the PT wandering the gym floor sparks up a conversation hoping to gain a new one-on-one client. Naturally, he’s right into bodybuilding, as so many PT’s are, and he convinces his potential client that she’d be great for bikini comps (Spoiler, everyone is a candidate for one of the IFBB categories, as long as you have musculature of any size and are committed to burning off all of your body fat, you can compete!). The line “you’d be great for bikini comps!” strokes her ego. She takes him on as a pt and she’s now venturing down the deep rabbithole of ultra strict dieting, excessive gym sessions and posing classes. She develops an unhealthy relationship with food, loses her menstrual cycle, and is to compete on stage at her most malnourished and least physically healthy state. She’s so obsessed with her body fat percentage that she constantly picks at her skin and thinks she’s only attractive when in “peak” competition (which as just stated, is in fact the very opposite of peak physical performance). Following a few seasons, she decides to quit it all and ends up at her most unhealthiest… What happened to mixed netball and feeling a little better at the beach??
In CrossFit we occasionally see a similar story. A member joins for weight loss, better health, to be active with their kids and to make some new friends. Next minute they’ve drank the KoolAid, they have all the gear, they’ve signed up to 8 competitions within the year and in 10 months has developed a mild tear and bursitis on their rotator cuff. By the end of the year they’re done. Their motivation is completely gone and they now feel they’re over CrossFit. They quit. They almost, but didn’t quite achieve all the things they came for in the beginning, they spend the next year on the couch bagging out CrossFitter’s and how stupid high volume snatches are, drinking and eating more than ever, ending up worse off than when they first began… What happened to being leaner, healthier and playing with the kids?
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting involved in CrossFit competitions and having all the gear, there is also nothing wrong with getting involved in bodybuilding and getting up on stage, but the purpose has to match the behaviour. If it doesn’t, you are 100% guaranteed to lose motivation and quit. Currently my competitive sporting focus is football, so the way I go about my CrossFit training suits the purpose of football and my other lower level purposes, not to perform at a high level in CrossFit competitions. If I were to continue to go hard in the box as if I were competing at this weekend’s CrossFit Sanctional event, my focus on football would waver and I would not be able to give my best to the sport.
Make sure when you start a new journey that you identify why you are doing it. What is your purpose here? Is what you are about to embark on going to serve that purpose? If not, why are you doing it? What purpose does it really serve? your ego? It might serve you a bit later when you are ready, but it might not right now.