Motivation: Recognizing the Source and Type

Last week, we talked about setting goals and making sure they’re realistic. With goals that are too simple or unrealistic, we’re likely to lack motivation to work toward them. Now that we have our goals in mind, let’s break down a few sources and types of motivation.

I’m sure we can recall a time when we’ve been highly motivated to accomplish a task. Acing a test, making a new sale, learning a new skill or sport, I could go on forever. Do you have a situation in mind? Good, we’ll use that situation throughout today’s article.

To provide context, I’m going to reference a sample situation of weight loss. It’s a common goal in the fitness space and one that many of my clients share.

Recall “why” you were motivated to achieve the said task. Popular sources of motivation include, but aren’t limited to: necessity, fear, revenge, love, vanity, travel, altruism, confidence, perfectionism, adrenaline rush, and mastery. With a goal of weight loss, more specific motivators may include: wanting to look better, feel healthier, play with kids, and preventing or minimizing the risk of disease or injury.

While there are endless sources of motivation, they can be broadly grouped into one of two types: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation exists outside of ourselves. It may be rewards or praise from friends and family. Intrinsic motivation is that which exists inside ourselves. It includes the feeling of accomplishment after a workout, the enjoyment of participating in physical activity, or the fulfillment found in cooking a new recipe.

It’s important to identify the source and type of motivation we’re relying on to assist in reaching our fitness goals. Early on in our journey, we may have to rely more on external motivation. For example, setting a goal and rewarding yourself with a new workout outfit when you have accomplished that goal.

However, it’s equally, if not more, important to begin to enjoy simply participating in physical activity. Developing this intrinsic motivation is a crucial component to sticking with an exercise program long-term. To do this, find types of exercise that you enjoy! You don’t have to run just because your coworker is and you don’t have to go to group exercise classes if you prefer working out alone. Try all different types of activities and find the ones that you enjoy, not for the outcome, but because you really enjoy the act of participating.

We’ve set our goals and determined our source and type of motivation. Next week, we’ll dive into how to reclaim your motivation and reconnect with your “why”.


Key Word: Intrinsic

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