Motivation often feels like a mystery. If you’ve attempted to lose weight, eat better, exercise regularly, manage stress or make other improvements in your life, you’ve probably experienced the come-and-go nature of motivation. At first, you feel inspired and driven to do what it takes to change but, as time passes or the going gets tough, your enthusiasm seems to slip away. People who have difficulty making positive change in their lives often cite lack of motivation as one of the major challenges.

Although it may feel like it, motivation is not an abstract force that is out of your control. Once you understand what really motivates you and how motivation works, you’ll be able to make the choices that result in lifelong health. This is not to say you will always feel the same level of motivation, or that you’ll be motivated by the same things. But, when you’re able to identify your motivators, you will be more successful at staying on track. So, where does your motivation come from, and what’s the secret to keeping it?

Motivation to improve health comes in many forms. Some motivators are internal – thoughts or feelings that come from inside you. Others are external – events, people or situations that inspire you. Both types of motivators can be an important type of fuel for change. Motivators vary from person to person, and are influenced by unique personalities, priorities, life situations, needs and desires.

The first step in mastering your motivation is to clearly identify what your reasons are for wanting to change a behavior or reach an outcome. Knowledge is power: the more you get to know yourself, the more likely you are to be successful at changing your unhealthy habits. When you know what it is that truly motivates and inspires you, you will be able to plan for ways to keep feeling inspired and driven to positive change, even through difficult times.

Although you may already be somewhat aware of your reasons for wanting to improve your health or life in general, it’s important to peel away the layers until you identify the real, powerful motivators. To help you pinpoint yours, spend a few minutes writing your answers to the following questions:

If you could choose one area in your life to change, what would it be? Be specific.

Why is it important to you to make this change?

Why do you want to make this change now?

When you’re done, review carefully what you’ve written. Think deeply about the questions and your answers. Challenge yourself to dig deeper and peel away the layers to find even more meaningful answers. Take your answers and ask yourself the last two questions again: So why is that important to you? And why now?

Let’s use an example to understand how this process works.

Mary comes to a weight loss program I offer because she is ready to lose weight. At the start of the program, I ask Mary why it is important to her to lose weight and she says: “Well, I know I’m not healthy this way. I need to be concerned about my health.” Then, I ask her why she wants to lose weight now. She says: “Because I know I’m not getting any younger and it’s just going to get more difficult to lose weight as I get older, so I need to do it now.”

These sound like good enough reasons for wanting to lose weight, right? Mary wants to lose weight because she knows she needs to do so in order to improve her health. She wants to do it now because she knows it will only get tougher with age. But, the truth is, for Mary, they really are NOT good enough motivators, because she hasn’t peeled away the layers enough to get to the heart of the matter.

I ask Mary to take this one step further to see if there is anything more powerful under these initial answers. I ask: “But why is it important for you to be healthy? Why does your health matter to you?” After some reflection, she realizes that, although she feels she should be worried about her health, it really isn’t the top priority for her. When I ask her to think more deeply, she realizes that her true motivator for wanting to lose weight is because she wants to feel good about herself again – she wants to feel confident and attractive. And when I ask her: “Why is it important to you to feel confident and attractive now, she says: “Because I’m tired of hating what I see in the mirror and hating how I feel about myself. I want to enjoy the rest of my life as much as possible, and that means I need to be happy with how I look and feel. And I have got to lose weight to do that. I don’t want to waste any more years of my life feeing unhappy about my body.”

A-ha!! Now we’re on to the really important stuff! Mary identified that it’s not just her health and looks that are important to her, but that her true motivator is to feel good about herself again and enjoy the rest of her life more fully. If Mary had identified only her health as a motivator for change, and had not peeled away the layers to find what is really important to her, she might have fallen short in her attempts to lose weight.

It’s important for you to go through this process, too. In order to master your motivation, you must get to know exactly what it is that is driving you to change now. Be honest with yourself – you might be surprised what you come up with!

Author's Bio: 

Rebecca truly enjoys working with others to guide and inspire them to find their own path to wellbeing. As a licensed Wellcoach, she works one-on-one with clients seeking change With more than a decade of experience in the health and wellness industry and Through one-on-one wellness coaching sessions, group weight loss programs and She feels it is a privilege to participate in people’s lives as they discover their desire to be healthy, work towards their personal wellness goals and reap the rewards of their efforts.

Rebecca has more than a decade of experience as a leader in the health and wellness industry. She is a licensed corporate Wellcoach, certified through the ACSM-endorsed Wellcoaches® organization. She teaches a wide variety of group fitness classes, works one-on-one in personal training sessions and has
managed a large corporate wellness center. With a master’s degree in mental health counseling and experience in individual and group counseling, Rebecca brings an understanding of psychology and behavior change to her work, which allows a multi-dimensional approach to positive change on physical, mental and emotional levels.