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Weight Management, Part II – Setting Emotional Goals

We’ll continue our series on weight management today (last time we talked about recognizing health behaviors that lead to less than stellar outcomes).

Just think for a second about the last time you accomplished a significant goal that really meant something to you. What were your driving factors? Chances are, you had a lot more motivation coming from intrinsic factors as oppose to extrinsic factors.

It goes like this:

Extrinsic motivation has to do with goal achievement behaviors that are external, or outside of yourself. The driving force can come from approval from others, trophies, prizes, money, and other external factors. A good example of extrinsically motivated goal is as follows:

“I am going to go to the gym 4x a week for at least 40 minutes, do my progressively overloaded compound movements, work on my interval training, and more closely monitor the quality, as well as the quantity of calories that I put in my body. I know that if I do this, I will be able to fit into the clothes I want and I’ll get more approval from other people.

Ok, fair enough, but does it seem like something is missing from this statement?

Yup.

Now, consider intrinsic motivation, which is an entirely different animal all together. Intrinsic motivation comes from an innate feeling that someone gets from partaking in a particular activity, a feeling that has meaning to that person. The driving force that compels that individual to partake in that task comes from within. A good example of intrinsic motivation is as follows:

“I am going to go to the gym 4x a week for at least 40 minutes, do my progressively overloaded compound movements, work on my interval training, and more closely monitor the quality, as well as the quantity of calories that I put in my body. I know that if I do this, my body and my mind feel much clearer, I’ll have more energy, and if I focus on these pleasure-inducing factors, then I know that it will be that much easier for me to STAY CONSISTENT with these actions, and subsequently, I will be able to achieve my fitness goals.”

I know what you’re thinking though….

“But Mike, I thought that’s why people work out!? Who DOESN’T want to lose weight and fit into smaller clothes?!”

I get it. I know that those are two significant driving sources for many people who work out….but in my opinion, and in many other research studies that have been conducted about motivational behavior, extrinsic motivating factors are not conducive with LONG-TERM SUCCESS in regards to health and fitness goals for the majority of people. Period.

(Big difference between retaining achieved goals over the long term vs. just achieving goals regarding weight loss/fitness gains in the short term.)

Now, that’s certainly not to say that extrinsic factors are necessarily bad for people; in fact, research has shown that the more motivational factors that individuals have, regardless of being from extrinsic or intrinsic sources, the higher or chances for success in reaching that goal will be.

However, intrinsic factors, when compared solely with extrinsic factors, have been consistently linked to higher success rates, and more positive affect in the process of and reaching a particular goal outcome. This is why I tell my clients to focus on finding at least one (hopefully more than one over time) intrinsic, enjoyable component in the process of reaching their goals…. Here are a few examples:

– Take pride in the soreness that you feel after a hard workout. It’ll let you know that you can come back that much stronger so you’ll be able to work that much harder, and burn that many more calories in your next workout.

– Listen to your favorite tunes, catch up with your family/friends, or do any other type of activity that YOU ENJOY, WHILE you’re preparing your meals for the week.

– Take pride in knowing that putting good, whole, REAL FOODS into your body on a consistent basis will allow you to maintain lean tissue, stronger immune system, sleep better, have improved cognitive function, and higher energy levels throughout the day.

– Use the time during your stretching, or cyclical steady state cardio work to focus on your breathing, see if you can come up with a rhythm pairing your inhale/exhale cycles with each stretch/rep/step that you take. Use the time to imagine what you want to feel like physically, mentally, emotionally, and step into that thought.  The more you acquaint yourself with this thought, the more you’ll live it.   Try to see how long you can do this, and then challenge yourself to do it longer next time. This actually makes working out easier, more effective, more enjoyable, and passes the time by faster!

Bottom line, intrinsic motivating factors allow one to stay on top of their goals for a much longer period of time (if not a lifetime), because the driving forces for success come from within. I know this stuff may sound stupid to some, and that’s cool, I thought the same thing too for a long time.  Then I started trying it out for myself…

Just try some of these examples out for yourself.  Or come up with some of your own.  See if you can build some intrinsic motivation around your workouts and nutrition for a month or two, and see if you actually start to get TRUE motivation out of your goals.

Adios!

MG

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