It’s difficult to ignore all the information on the benefits of living a healthy life style. While many people have the desire to improve upon their current fitness level, you’re not alone if you find it a challenge to get off of the proverbial couch and take that first step.
As we age, taking the first step is often more daunting than it was in our younger years. We’ve lived long enough to see our histories repeat themselves. Old habits die hard, but it is not to be said that they cannot be phased out and replaced by healthy new habits. I know it’s cliche, but you can teach an old dog new tricks. It is never too late to choose healthier alternatives.
Tools aren’t Smart, but Cells are…
Most of us have nurtured habits in our numerous years. Unfortunately, the word ‘habit’ has taken a negative twist in our modern language. I can remember when ‘tool’ meant an apparatus to dig holes or bang nails, now it means that you’re not very smart. And ‘cell’, well that referred to jail, nowadays, they’re phones; smart phones even. Who would have guessed that when we were growing up?
In terms of the true definition, habit is merely an acquired behavior pattern that is regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary. Good or bad, if you do something enough times, it becomes a habit. And so for good habits to form, there needs to be repetition of a restorative behaviour that may be overwhelming to you at first, but you will reap vital benefits over time. How do you find that motivation to take that first step and repeat until it becomes a ‘good’ habit?
Your Get and Go Has Got up and Gone
So you’ve been thinking about making changes to your life. You’re reading this because you’re curious about how to begin, but that little voice in your head keeps telling you that tomorrow will be a better day to begin. Tomorrow turns into next week, and before you know it, months have gone by. Precious time that you could be making healthier, functional, life extending changes. Your get up and go, has got up and gone. You need motivation.
Motivation is your drive. It’s that desire that prompts you to get out of bed in the morning and accomplish the tasks that you have set for your day. Motivation is driven by incentive. Without some sort of incentive or sense of satisfaction there would, often be little motivation to do the things that we do.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going” – Jim Rohn
Intrinsic Motivation – It’s in You
There is a satisfaction or feeling of joy that you get when you accomplish something. Whether it is something that you are good at or something that was challenging, you find pride and joy in the achievement. We feed emotionally on inherent pleasures and experiences. They may come in the form of social engagement, challenges or skills development. Whatever the trigger, it is initiated within you. It brings out the desire to recreate that feeling. You are more inclined to repeat the behavior that made you feel so wonderful. That good feeling is an incentive and it creates motivation. When it comes from within you, without any external influence, it is what is called intrinsic motivation. This form of motivation is associated with increased participation in a given behavior. We are all capable of finding internal motivators. Although it varies in each of us, no one is 100% intrinsically motivated. There can be a little or a lot, frequently depending on the degree of pleasure that you expect to gain from it.
Extrinsic Motivation – It’s out there
Often when we start something new, it can be difficult to find that inherent pleasure. Learning curves and self-doubt can take their toll on the feelings of joy and satisfaction. This is when it is beneficial to look to external factors for motivation. The benefit has to come from something other than your self-induced pleasure in participating. This is known as extrinsic motivation and it can come from many sources.
- Emotional support and encouragement from a friend or family member who believes in you.
- Desire to lose weight and look better.
- An upcoming event like a wedding or high school reunion
- Your Doctor’s advice.
When we lack intrinsic motivation, we should look outside of ourselves to get the jump start that we need to take steps to a healthier version of ourselves. I work as a personal trainer. Health and fitness is my life’s mantra, but I can assure you that there are days when I need some encouragement from my husband to get myself out and do that run that I’m not in the mood to do. I’m always grateful for that verbal kick in the behind. I feel amazing when I get back home knowing that I did something to make myself better, even if it took someone or something else to give me a nudge. I might have talked myself out of it if it didn’t have that external motivation.
A bit of this and a dollop of that
We are not constant beings. We are affected by so many, many factors. Good news, bad news, hormones, stress at work, tension at home. A bit of this and a dollop of that. We respond in ways that we are not always aware. It’s no wonder that we have days when we feel like we can barely put our socks on. Other days, we not only put our socks on, but we’ve shorn the sheep, spun the wool, and knit those socks; all before that first cup of coffee. Most of us, most of the time, fall somewhere in between.
Motivation…Where are you!?
Motivation can be found all around you. How you find it will depend greatly on the strength of your desire to acquire it and your personality. If you want to make healthy, positive changes in your life, you can draw upon all the information and resources that are available to help you feel motivated. Some motivation will come from within and your need and belief in making yourself into a healthier you. If that is the case, then take those first steps…a short walk, join a beginner fitness class, or try some home workouts, for example.
If you find that you are a bit short on internal inspiration, try some of the following suggestions:
- Find a buddy. I guarantee that you are not the only one who wants to make positive, mindful changes to your life. Perhaps you know someone who will take a beginner fitness class with you. Maybe, just maybe they were too afraid to do it alone and are encouraged by your enthusiasm.
- Find a another buddy. Perhaps your buddy from above can’t take a fitness class with you, but would be willing to meet you for a coffee (without the donuts) after you attend your class. Set up a date and make yourself accountable to show up for class and the coffee.
- Use your smart ‘cell’, and set up reminders to eat healthier and do some physical activity on most days of the week. You don’t have to go for a run or eat kale all week. Remember a short walk is better than no walk and a side of salad is better than a side of fries.
- Share your ideas and goals for getting healthier with others. Talk to your doctor. Start with smaller more achievable goals at first and ask your friends and family to check in on your progress.
- Read or watch inspiring stories about other middle-aged people who making healthy, mindful and positive changes in their lives.
- Reward yourself with little treats or gifts when you achieve your goals.
You’ve got to Move it, Move it…
Remember that when you lose a day of eating healthily, exercising, and making mindful choices, it is a day that you never get back. We’re all getting older and we’re living in chronically unfit bodies longer than our ancestors did. Look for ways to develop your motivations, create positive habits so that you spend those years in a healthier body. You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
I believe in you. You can do this. Don’t be ‘tool’ish. Take good care of you.
If you enjoyed this article or want to share some thoughts on what you’d like to see on this blog, I’d love to hear from you. Also, please share your ideas for what motivates you. You might help someone else in finding their motivation to get fit in middle age.
Be the best version of you.