Unpopular Opinion: Why I Don’t Believe in “Motivation”

“Unpopular Opinion” may become a running segment on this blog, because I have lots of them. But we’ll try this one out and see how much hate mail I get, I guess.

As I mentioned in the post title. I don’t believe in motivation. To clarify, I don’t believe that there is a magical motivation fairy that will come sprinkle you with magical motivation dust and make you WANT to get out of bed at 5:30 AM every morning and go work out. I don’t believe in continuous motivation at all, in fact.

“Now, wait just a minute,” you might be saying. “Aren’t you the one who has gotten out of bed every morning to work out for the last nearly sixteen weeks running? Surely you’re motivated to do so!”

This is the face I make when you assume that I’m motivated. This is also me not being at all motivated.

Your assumption is met with laughter and head-shaking, I assure you. Most mornings, particularly the mornings where my work schedule requires me to drag myself out of bed prior to 6 AM (sometimes having only gotten to bed around 12 AM), I absolutely DO NOT feel motivated at all to get out of bed and go work out. The extra hour of sleep often sounds like a fantastic idea. So why do I not just stay in bed? There are a few reasons…

#1: I have DECIDED that working out in the morning is a thing I’m going to do. I have built it into my schedule the same as I have built going to work into my schedule. I HAVE to show up, unless any of the same reasons I would legitimately call in to work apply (sick, injured, hospitalized, death in the family, etc.). Motivation has absolutely zilch to do with it, because most of the time I’m not feeling particularly magical or sparkly in the morning when I drag my ass out of bed and put my big-girl leggings on to go work out. Working out in the morning is a long-term commitment I have made to improve my health situation, the same as my employment contract with my employer is a long-term commitment I have made to improve my financial situation. I don’t view the two any differently, and I think that may be why it seems to be sticking this time. I have tried and given up on more diets and exercise programs than you’d believe. (Though I did touch on some of those in an earlier post, if you’re curious.)

#2: I already know I won’t “do it later”. There’s some self-knowledge that comes with reaching your mid-30s, and one of the things I now know about myself is that “I’ll do it later” is code for “I’m not gonna do it today.” For some things, that’s okay. If I say “I’ll do it later” about cleaning the bathroom and it doesn’t happen until 3 days later, usually that’s okay. But if I say “I’ll do it later” about one of my workouts, then I’ve broken my routine and upset my healthy habit that I’ve been working so hard to cultivate. Also, given the fact that I usually come home from work late at night (between 7 and 11 PM) and completely exhausted, the odds of me actually completing a workout after work are slim to none. I have decided that this is unacceptable. (See? There’s that word “decided” again.)

#3: Habit/routine are my best allies right now. Seriously… motivation is a fickle creature and cannot be depended on. Habit and routine, however, are much harder things to upset once established. I remember when I was a kid, my adult neighbor and I were looking over the rickety old fence dividing our two properties and she remarked, “The only thing holding that fence up is habit!” I want my workout routine to be like that fence… still standing strong because it simply doesn’t know what else to do. Seriously, it is much easier to get up and go work out half-asleep and on autopilot. I’m usually already started before I fully realize what I’m doing, and what point is there in stopping once you’ve already started? Also, my husband already knows that first thing in the morning when I get up and put on my workout clothes, I’m off to “do the yogas” (as he says), and I will not tolerate delays or interruptions, and he knows to leave me alone until I’m done. This is good for both of us… good for me because I get it done, and good for him because it’s not really safe to talk to me about finances first thing in the morning, which is what he usually wants to talk about on Saturday mornings, for some reason. Seriously, the weekly review of how much money we spent this week can wait an hour.

Now if only I could train the cat to leave me alone for the first hour after I wake up…

A cool thing about working out at home and owning your own equipment is that you can rub your feet on your weights if you want to.

I guess saying I don’t believe in motivation at all is a bit of an overstatement, but I certainly don’t think it is something continuous or reliable. I obviously started working out and taking care of my health because I was motivated to do so, but that’s about all motivation is good for. Motivation gets you started. It’s the kick in the butt that makes you take the first step forward. You may get occasional, subsequent flashes of motivation that inspire you to add another type of workout to your regime or try something in a different way, but you can’t rely on motivation for the day-to-day will to get up and work out, because it’ll let you down 95% of the time. Your long-term success or failure is going to be determined by your level of commitment, and whether or not you have truly decided to make this change in your life.

Decisions and commitment are a million times stronger than motivation any day of the week.

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