March 2015: Intrinsic Motivation – How To Be Your Best Self

Last week was a challenging week. It was Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and I scheduled a webinar for coaches and athletes to have the hard discussion of the warning signs of eating disorders. I was informed by some coaches of some disturbing behaviors of some athletes that clearly steps outside the line of acceptable and appropriate athletic behavior. We then discussed what would we do as coaches if we know that we were working with someone with an eating disorder. Other than stop the process entirely of counting calories and working toward a fitness goal, and seeking professional help, none of us knew what to do.

In fact, I have been suspicious for some time that many people with eating disorders hide out in the fitness industry because it is an acceptable place to count calories and be in “beast mode.” I don’t know what beast mode is really. I never had to announce to my social media that I was in beast mode because I was probably too busy being in beast mode to focus on what others think of me.

Which brings me to my point. Our industry is full of quick fixes of extrinsic motivation. If we are feeling unmotivated, our favorite fitness chick is only one click away and presto, we are now magically in her world. But what is the downside of continually looking outside of ourselves for motivation? It is helpful to have role models and aspirations, but when we continually look outside of ourselves for sources of motivation, it does not set us up to be the best version of us we can be.

Those of us who exercise and eat healthy for appearance reasons, as opposed to those who exercise for health reasons, are at greater risk for decreased self-esteem, poor body image, and eating disorders (Cash et al. 1994). It does not help us to be our best self if we are continually looking to others for our motivation. I don’t coach people to be a carbon copy of me or to teach people the way that I do things. The way that I do things for me will be very different from the way that I will coach you, in order to help you get what you want.

There is value in having role models. We look to people who emulate character traits that we want, but in the end, what is important is that you are striving toward a goal that has value and meaning to you. Think about your intrinsic values. Ask:

  1. What is important to me in life?
  2. What do I value?
  3. What is important to me to about getting in great shape?
  4. What do I want the experience of getting in great shape to be like?

The answers to the questions above are based on your value system and your set of rules that are intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is the key to sustainable power in your health and fitness endeavor, and any other endeavor for that matter. Look at the role models for ideas, but don’t feel the need to be a carbon copy of that person. Rather, look inside and create your best self from the ground up, based on your values in life. In the end, you will have a much healthier and successful fitness journey, which lines up with your core values and truest self.

Reference:
Cash, T. F., Novy. P.L. & Grant, J.R. (1994). Why do women exercise? Factor analysis and further validation of the Reasons for Exercise Inventory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 539-544.

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