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Think back to the last time you tried to attain a goal. How did it go? Did you achieve it? Did you give up along the way? Were the results short-lived? The results you achieve (or don’t) when trying to reach a goal aren’t dependent on how hard you work, how smart you are or how lucky you are — they are dependent on whether you were intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
If you aren’t familiar with these concepts: intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding (feels good) to you and fulfills an internal desire. Extrinsic motivation is when you’re trying to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Which do you think provides more success and long-lasting results? Yes, intrinsic motivation.
Let’s say you’re doing a 90-day challenge because you want to lose 20 pounds. That’s an extrinsically motivated path. Instead, you want to focus on finding intrinsic motivation. Why?
Intrinsic motivation is where behavior change happens. When you are choosing for yourself rather than feeling like you have to do something, you become motivated. Long-term behavior change and creating new habits begins intrinsically.
When people fall off the wagon, it’s because they feel outside pressures. And many fitness professionals are often focused on the extrinsic factors during workouts and training sessions by bringing in the “you’re not there yet” mentality to workouts. The language is so engrained in our fitness culture that most people don’t even realize it’s happening.
How to Set More Mindful Goals
Now that you understand where your motivation needs to come from, it’s time to rethink how you set goals for yourself to achieve maximum effectiveness. Trust me: Throw out everything you’ve ever been taught about setting goals and instead follow these steps:
1. Start with purpose. Before you zero in on your goal, start by finding your true north. What is your intention behind why you want to do what you’re going do? For instance, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds in a 90-day challenge. What’s behind that that’s important to you? What is losing 20 pounds going to do for you? Keep asking questions and digging deeper and deeper until you uncover the root. What’s the importance and what is the meaning of that end result? Let’s say the root is that you are craving happiness because you feel unhappy. So what’s the opposite of that? Happiness! Will losing 20 pounds guarantee you happiness? Maybe. Maybe not. But look at it from a different perspective and set goals that lead you toward happiness. Maybe you’ll want to go to the gym because it makes you happy to be around people, you like making new friends, and a good sweat feels awesome. Getting to the root will enhance your intrinsic motivation because it brings the thing you really want — in this case, happiness — into your life. Find what makes you happy, excited and passionate. Ask more questions. What do you really care about? What energizes you? Who do you want to help? What will you sacrifice? What’s the crap you’re willing to put up with to achieve it? What are your values? What is your belief system?
2. Set SMART goals. Once you’re ready to set goals, there’s a smarter way to do so. The SMART method of goal setting is based on the following acronym of principles that will increase your likelihood of success:
- Specific: Target a certain behavior. It should be clear and easy to understand.
- Measurable: Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Attainable: Make sure you have enough time and resources to achieve your goal.
- Realistic: State what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Timely: Specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
For clear examples of how to set SMART goals, click here.
3. Prepare for the obstacles. Even after you’ve identified your purpose and set SMART goals, it doesn’t mean it’ll always be smooth sailing. There will always be obstacles in your way. Put them into the following buckets:
a. Define failure. What does failure mean to you? If you try and fail, what happens? Do you feel shame or guilt? Let’s say you go through the 90-day program and then fall off the wagon for a week. What do you do? Did you fail at completing the task? Or did you fail as a person? There’s a difference. Did you feel embarrassment? Humiliation? How do you process when things don’t work out as you planned?
b. Examine limiting beliefs. If you took on the belief that women have to be fit, have blond hair and be 5 feet 10 inches to be accepted, that’s a limiting belief. Examine the thoughts and beliefs that you have to determine where they came from and how you can dispel them.
c. Assess assumptions. We make so many assumptions that we may not even realize it. Maybe you’re assuming because you’ve done a 90-day challenge before with no notable progress, it won’t work for you this time either. Throw those assumptions away.
d. Explore interpretations. If the program said you needed to complete all five workouts in a week but you weren’t able to for whatever reason, do you interpret that as failing? Or do you celebrate what you did accomplish?
I promise, you’ll go way further than you ever thought possible and enjoy your life more abundantly once you find your intrinsic motivation. Plus, you’ll also get healthier, maybe drop some pounds and show better in your skin. It all works together.
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