Finding my why

Photo: nist6dh on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: nist6dh on Flickr via Creative Commons

In a recent counseling session we were discussing the idea of motivation. Specifically for me in regard to exercise, eating well, and generally pursuing a healthier body and lifestyle. It turns out I don’t like to do things I don’t want to do. Making myself do them anyway has always seemed like some sort of black magic trick. It’s never so much worked.

This was not a new conversation for me. In all of my many half-hearted attempts at weight loss in the past, one of the most consistently annoying parts of joining any established group-based program has been the “let’s-get-you-motivated” part of the induction. First of all, let’s acknowledge my cynicism here in that I just can’t take seriously a person who, because they’ve mastered a contrived program and lost weight, takes on the role of therapist. The questions they ask these initiating folks to delve into with people are just inappropriate for someone not trained in that sort of field. So when the well-meaning women sitting behind a wall of branded weight loss products would start digging into my motivation, there was mostly an internal eye roll and attempt to be polite while completely blowing off the conversation.

Because here is the second thing. None of the things they would list off were ever motivators for me. Setting prizes for when you hit certain goals? I can buy what I want, when I want thank-you-very-much-‘murica. Putting up pictures of yourself at a smaller size? I’ve never been a smaller size. How about pictures of hot models to make you envy their bodies and work harder (yes, this is really a thing they promote). Nope. I am too aware of airbrushing. Also of the insidious nature of comparison. Do it for your friends/family/spouse/children. My friends aren’t assholes and they love me as I am. I’m not connected to my family and I don’t have a spouse or children. Do it to improve your emotional well-being? Okay, this one sorta would grab my attention, because I know that physical health impacts dysthymia. But linking my entire emotional health on whether or not I lost weight seemed like a bad idea.

As my counselor and I began to dive into some of these avenues of motivation, I could hear the frustration in her voice as she finally said, “Well then I don’t know what to tell you.” I broke my therapist. This wasn’t going well.

That night I started using the Google machine to look into this world of motivation. Turns out, all of the things normally connected to motivating people, particularly in weight loss, are external motivations. The pictures, the thoughts of others, the prizes – all of those things are geared toward someone with an orientation toward external motivation. The other side of that coin is internally motivated people. Apparently I am like 8700% internally motivated. Searching for internal motivation techniques was…disappointing. Every article would elaborate ad nauseam on the various ways to increase external motivation. For the internally motivated person, “they work out simply for the love of the activity.”

Well, shit. That concept came up over and over and over again. Internally motivated people do a thing because they want to do a thing. But no one seemed to have anything to say about what to do when you loathe doing the thing. So I decided to work on my own little experiment. I began thinking through the reasons I might want to do a thing (exercise, eat well, lose weight, get strong), and what my reasons were for not doing that thing. The results were actually pretty interesting, and I’ll be sharing them here as this three-month project continues.

For now, I am doing the things. I almost feel like I’m in some sort of grace period with my motivation, as though that part of my brain is letting up on the hatred of gyms and treadmills and doing dishes long enough for me to get past the barriers. I want to make the most of that space, to learn how to enjoy this weird amalgam of bone and muscle and skin my brain occupies. So, here’s to learning to love a thing.


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