When you search for tips on getting ‘motivation for workouts’, do you get tired of the ‘scratch-the-surface information’ that comes up? You know the stuff to which I’m referring; it usually reads like a laundry list of small changes or ritualistic habits people adopt to fire themselves up for a bodybuilding or fat burning workout. Some of these methods are effective and others more superficial. One thing’s common among most of them – they rarely provide deep or lasting ‘motivation for workouts.’
I’d like to share with you what I’ve personally learned about ‘motivation for workouts.’ It’s based on both practical experience and theoretical knowledge. The experience part comes from my being involved with physical training in one way or another since my early teens. The theoretical knowledge is based on an NLP certification and my reading of dozens of books on the psychology of mental fitness and motivation. Combined, these experiences provide me a unique perspective on motivation for workouts – one in which you can certainly benefit.
‘Motivation for Workouts’: It stems from personal values
Personal values are the things that are individually important to each of us. They determine, in large part, what we each pay attention to and what we often ignore through a sort of default mechanism. They act at the subconscious level most of the time and have a huge influence on motivation levels for any prospective opportunity or task we’re presented.
Obviously, in order to have motivation for workouts, we need to hold the purpose of those workouts at a high enough personal value level for action to be spontaneous. Since working out is a ‘process goal’ that’s used in the pursuit of a ‘product goal’ (a better body), the product goal needs to be highly valued for the process to occur. In other words, ‘having a better body’ needs to be adequately valued so that working out is of likewise value.
Complicating things a bit is the fact that personal values tend to compete with one another. That makes sense since we all only have twenty-four hours available in each day. For example, if someone personally values large amounts of academic pedigree, the time they have available to work out in the gym is likely limited by the value they hold for studying. And keep in mind that these are just two possible competing values used as examples (a better body vs. high academic pedigree); most of us have many more that constantly compete with one another for our time.
Given this competition among values, we tend to hold them in our minds in a sort of subconscious hierarchy. Keeping with our examples of ‘a nice body’ versus ‘a large academic pedigree’, whichever of these two possible conjunctive values a person holds in more importance will be higher in their subconscious hierarchy and likely win more personal time and attention than the other. This has a big effect on motivation; the value of ‘a better body’ needs to reside at a high enough hierarchal level so as to make motivation for workouts more an automatic impulse.
What’s exciting is that values can be shifted. The results of a positive habit can become important enough to us so as to effectively “rev up” our motivation to repeat that habit. One key to this is in identifying more ‘global’ reasons for each value and then seeing where they connect on that level. The way to identifying a ‘global’ (or “chunked up”) value is by simply asking yourself what’s important about a particular ‘concrete’ value. For example, if you value ‘having a nice body’, you’d ask the following question:
“What’s important to me about having a nice body?”
Let’s say (just as example; your answers may differ) the answer comes as the following insight:
“I’d have more energy and feel better about myself when mingling with other people.”
You’d then ask yourself “what’s important to me about having more energy and feeling better about myself when mingling with other people?”
This might bring up the following answer: “I’d enjoy better health and more personal connections.”
You could then ask yourself what’s important to you about those things. This is often called “chunking up” on a value. What’s interesting is that if you chunk high enough – and then chunk up on a “competing value” (like ‘academic pedigree’) – you’ll often find that the reasons meet each other at the higher levels. It could be that a person wanting both a better body and more academic credentials ultimately values each of these in order to have more ‘achievement’… and that achievement leads to the value of ‘personal fulfillment.’ Our values tend to get more abstract as we chunk them higher. Consequently, we find the more ‘concrete’ values often stem from the same ‘abstract’ values.
This can have enormous implications for motivation for workouts, especially when you realize that ‘having a nice body’ might be something you value for the same reason that something else holds value for you. It might occur to you that ‘health’ and ‘self-esteem’ – both derived from an improved body – can become tools that propel you toward more success in another concrete value.
A realization of these connections can light up your ‘motivation for workouts.’
‘Motivation for Workouts’: ‘Beliefs’ affect it too
In the years since I’ve practiced the principles I wrote down in HardBody Success, I’ve never missed a workout. Yes, you’ve read that correctly – not a single one of my scheduled workouts has been cancelled in the past few years. Sure, a relative handful has been postponed for a day or two because of unforeseen circumstances or scheduling conflicts. But my ‘motivation for workouts’ is so strong that I’d need to effectively reconfigure my brain in order to NOT get the workouts done. And I’m the same individual who used to miss workouts regularly and occasionally take three to six months off from bodybuilding just to get relief from frustration.
So what’s made the difference?
In a couple of words: ‘self-beliefs.’ Our beliefs about ourselves and what’s possible for us have a huge effect on our desire to follow through. These beliefs can work in conjunction with values to create an automatic impulse to take action. When you believe something (like changing your body) is possible, and that belief coincides with a high-level hierarchal value (having a nice body), motivation becomes a given.
To see how these things affect motivation, let’s look at an equation presented by Roger Constandse in his terrific book, The Psychology of Procrastination:
Perceived Value x Expectancy x Willpower/Sensitivity x Delay
Perceived Value and Expectancy are another way of expressing the concepts of ‘Personal Values’ and ‘Beliefs.’ More specifically, they’re the following concepts:
- Perceived Value – What’s important to you
- Expectancy – What you think is possible for you
These are in the numerator of the equation, along with ‘Willpower.’ Constandse defines willpower as a combination of one’s self control, discipline, and available energy.
In the denominator of the equation are ‘Delay’ and ‘Sensitivity.’ Delay is the amount of time it will take for a “payoff” to occur, while sensitivity is the degree to which delays affect personal drive.
As with any ratio, if we raise the numerator or reduce the denominator (or both) we’ll get a higher quotient. In this case, that would be more motivation. Since most of you who’ve read this far probably value ‘physique improvement’ a lot, it’s your expectancy (or self-beliefs) that likely hold the most room for improvement in the numerator. Conjunctively, it’s your ‘sensitivity to delay’ that probably needs to be reduced within the denominator.
‘Motivation for Workouts’: Raising Expectancy and Reducing Sensitivity
So how do we “raise our expectancy” and “reduce sensitivity to delay?”
Let me answer that with two words: ‘Effective training’ and ‘regular milestones.’ When we train effectively for physique improvement while continually seeing milestones of progress, our expectancy (belief that we can succeed) goes up. Likewise, when we see milestones recorded on paper (since they take longer to appear on the body) our sensitivity to delay goes down.
This is the deeper source of motivation for workouts. And it creates more motivational traction than any of the more superficial tips that have become ubiquitous.