People often make the mistake of waiting to feel motivated. The hard truth is that you won’t always feel motivated. You won’t always feel inspired.
Yes, external motivators - that perfect dress, your coming high school reunion - can help but they won’t ultimately create the lasting change and the lasting effect you’re looking for. Consider this. What happens after you've worn the dress? You start to relax and ease up on your workouts. What happens after the reunion? You may start sneaking in some not-so-healthy food in your meals.
The main takeaway here is that you don’t wait for people, things or events to get you motivated. You must create your own motivation.
In this interview, my guest Beth Larsen and I talked about motivation and how to make it work for you.
Beth Larsen is a High Performance and Happiness Coach for professional women who want to ditch the stress and struggle and claim their MORE: More Energy, More Joy, More Passion, More
Connection and More Meaning.
With a 20 year career in the retail industry and as a former VP of Sales, she knows first hand the challenges successful women face in balancing their career with their health, relationships, and happiness. She's committed to giving all women the tools and strategies to not just thrive, but fully flourish!
Below are some key points on what was discussed in the interview.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES WHEN CREATING YOUR MOTIVATION
To create your own motivation, you must get a clear vision of what you want and what you don’t want.
So, what happens a lot of times is women will be really crystal clear on what they DON'T want. Take losing weight for instance. Women know they need to lose the unwanted pounds or losing inches from their waist. There’s a resistance involved with this line of thought, because it's something that you're trying to move away from.
Instead, lose the negatives and focus on the positives. If you’re thinking, “I don't want to feel sluggish anymore.”, switch that to “I want to have more energy.” Have a clear vision on what having more energy means for you. Is it waking up refreshed and revitalized? Is it being able to do the chores and still have energy left for your workout? Is it playing hide-and-seek with your grandkids?
As Beth says, “You see, when we’re focused on what we don't want, we're giving energy to that unwanted situation. We subconsciously keep reinforcing the patterns of what we don't want. So that keeps us stuck in an unmotivated space - it's pulling us back into that energy of what we don't want.”
FINDING THE RIGHT WHYs OF YOUR MOTIVATION
According to Beth, one of the interesting things about high-performing individuals is that they have two kinds of helpful WHYs. They have the INTRINSIC WHYs and the EXTRINSIC WHYs. These are the helpful WHYs. Is there any other WHY, you may ask? We’ll get to that later.
The INTRINSIC WHY answers questions like, “Why do I want this for myself?” or “Why is this important for me?”
The EXTRINSIC why, on the other hand, is often bigger than yourself. Humans as we are, we’re often quick to give up on ourselves. Sometimes our own WHY is not enough to keep us going. So, when we have a WHY that's bigger than you, it's something to keep pulling you forward when you're not feeling as motivated for yourself. So, an EXTRINSIC WHY might be something like along these, “I want to get in the best shape of my life because I want to be there for my daughter when she gets married.” Or if I have younger kids, an EXTRINSIC WHY would be to say, “I want to be able to have the energy to keep up with them and become a better role model for them.”
Sometimes both INTRINSIC and EXTRINSIC WHYs can become intertwined. Take someone’s dream to complete a 5K marathon. The INTRINSIC WHY may be to push your own limits and have a sense of accomplishment. The EXTRINSIC WHY may be to have an achievement that will make your children proud and make it a teachable moment about hard work and perseverance.
Now that we’ve discussed the two helpful WHYs, let’s go to the third WHY – the EXTERNAL WHY. This is the WHY we don’t want but it’s also often the WHY that people have. The EXTERNAL WHY is the reason why the motivation doesn’t stick. Ever had this kind of why? It’s when you vow to lose weight because your husband teased you for being chubby. It’s when you want to lose the flab because friends you haven’t seen for quite some time mentioned you’ve put on some weight. The EXTERNAL WHY is often based on shame and guilt and is not an effective motivating factor in the long term.
UNDERSTANDING HOW THE BRAIN WORKS WHEN IT COMES TO MOTIVATION
To keep it simple, let’s divide the brain into two parts – the lower brain and the higher brain.
The lower brain is the reptilian brain. It’s the part of the brain responsible for our FIGHT, FLIGHT or FRIGHT responses. This means that it’s designed to keep you safe. The lower brain doesn’t like changes. It views change as a threat. Once you start getting out of your comfort zone and start making changes in your body and your lifestyle, alarm bells go off in the lower brain. It will self-sabotage you and your efforts. IT will try to pull you back to where you were before. Now, don’t get it wrong. It’s just doing its job. It just wants you to be safe in your comfort zone.
This is important to take note of. Know that when you're trying to make a change, you're trying to get yourself motivated, and do something differently, the struggle is happening in your brain. It’s not all your fault. You are NOT a weak person.
Of course, now that you’re aware of this, you’ll need to do something about it. It may sound silly but having a dialogue with your brain is part of the key. Say something like, “Hey lower brain, I got this. I know you mean well but this change is going to be good for me. So, I’m heading in this direction.”
Know that you can get out of your comfort zone and develop new habits even when your lower brain’s pulling you back. Give yourself time, keep on interrupting the lower brain’s process, and forge a new path.
LEARN TO PROPERLY USE YOUR IMAGINATION FOR MOTIVATION
According to Beth, imagination is one of the most underutilized conscious mental faculties to us now. We’re using it all the time unconsciously by WORRYING. We’re always using our imagination to worry about things that could possibly go wrong. We’re always using our imagination when we think about all the possible worst-case scenarios.
Beth advises us to use our imagination instead to visualize about our ideal outcomes. Actually, she advises us to go beyond visualization and use all of our senses in this process. If you were to close your eyes and imagine that ideal outcome, picture it up to the last detail. Feel it in your body. How does it feel both emotionally and viscerally? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? What do I hear?
Beth shares one exercise meditation she does with her clients where she puts them in that future state. From out of that state, she helps clients create three power words. What are the three words that describe that ideal version of yourself? It’s important to note that you need to go into the actual emotion of it before you pick your words. Otherwise, you’re picking it from the brain and not your intuitive sense. Once you have those three words, you can use them as anchors.
With these, Beth explains that it’s just a matter of going back to these words throughout the day. With Beth, she uses her alarm. One of Beth’s power words is vibrant. When her alarm goes off and she’s about to have lunch, she asks herself, “Is my meal vibrant? Is this meal going to make me feel vibrant right after or is it going to make feel lethargic?” If the answer is No, she then asks herself, “What can I do to make it vibrant?”
The point, Beth emphasizes, is to start aligning your present into that future ideal of yourself. The more you try to align into it, the more it becomes second-nature. And at one point, you realize your alarm goes off, you think of your power words, and you’re already there. You’re already that person!
Of course, this may take time. After all, your lower brain will try to do its job and keep you from making that change.
ALWAYS BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR SELF-DIALOGUES
As mentioned earlier, the main struggle is all in the mind and it’s important to have a dialogue with your lower brain, so to speak.
The brain is wired to go searching for the things we ask. When we ask questions and make statements like, “Why did I do that again? How could I have done that same mistake again. I’m so weak and useless,” the brain is going to search for answers and validate it. That’s the keyword there – validate.
So, what we want to do is switch the question and ask better quality questions or make better statements. Beth suggests using I-wonder statements. Wonder switches you into curiosity mode and what you’re really looking for is curiosity. Examples are:
“I wonder what I can do differently tomorrow.”
“I wonder how this can be easier.”
Switching from self-defeating statements to I-wonder statements gives you an opportunity to switch from being a victim to one who has endless possibilities of making things better.
Watch the full interview below.
Beth has a free workbook for you and it’s called the Flourish! 90 Day Journal Prompts. With these simple, yet thought-provoking questions, you can unlock the magic of curiosity and move from "worry to wonder" and “overwhelm to on fire". You can subscribe to her email list here and you’ll be sent this wonderful workbook.
She also has a complimentary strategy session for those interested in trying out her coaching service here as well.
For general information on Beth, you can go to her website bethlarsencoaching.com.
For motivation and support in your health and fitness, you can join my Private Facebook Group, Weight Loss After 50. This is a supportive, private community where you'll find answers to all your healthy & fitness questions as well as learn proper form, nutrition tips and find great interviews like this one with Beth.
Lisa Swanson is an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified AASDN and PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 35 years experience helping people turn their lives around, she is on a mission to provide relevant and useful knowledge to help women in midlife reach their goals.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.