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The Elements of Self-Motivation


Updated June 13, 2014


Once you've decided to exercise, make it as easy as possible to follow through. That means having what you need and getting it all ready for your workouts -- pack your gym bag, prepare meals or snacks, and plan out what you'll do that day. I've skipped plenty of morning workouts because finding my running shoes turned out the be the equivalent of finding the lost city of Atlantis. I now park them right next to the bed, unlaced, so all I have to do is step into them and I'm ready to go. Find ways you can be ready for your workout well before it happens.


Part of doing what we do each day has to do with routine and habits. If you can make exercise a habit, you're that much closer to making it easier to do. It helps to have a regular day and time you workout so that, once that time comes, you know it's time to get busy. You can also create a ritual around your workout to help you get ready. For example, if you're a morning exerciser, take a few minutes to stretch before you get started. Or, if it's cold, throw your clothes in the dryer before putting them on. Find ways to make your workout just another part of your life, like brushing your teeth.


Part of being able to stick to your routine is allowing some leeway. You may plan on jogging 5 miles, but there will come a day when you're too tired or you don't have the time. Most of us end up skipping our workouts rather than coming up with something else to do. Have a goal in mind, but be willing to change it if you find you're tired that day or you have to work late. Always have a backup plan -- if you find you have to work late, see if you can fit in a quick walk at lunch, or use your breaks for some stair walking. Everything counts!


Being healthy isn't a decision you make once -- it's one you make every day. Recommitting to your goals is necessary to keep yourself on track. See if you can spend a few minutes each morning thinking or writing about what you want to accomplish that day and how you'll do it. Remind yourself of your goals and take some time to appreciate how far you've come in reaching them. Write down your goals and stick them on your desk or wall so you can see them. Do whatever you can to remind yourself of your commitment to exercise.

Having Fun

All those words I've just used (preparation, discipline, commitment) sound like the opposite of fun, don't they? If you're like me, you sometimes get tired of being so mature all the time -- of all the obligations and responsibilities you have. Exercise often sounds like just another duty. We forget that moving our bodies can actually be fun. Making time for unstructured, free-flowing movement can help you lighten up a little. I highly recommend taking a stroll, jumping in a big pile of leaves or challenging your loved on to a wrestling match.

Reward Yourself

For me, motivation happens almost instantly whenever I reward myself. It might be something small, like a leisurely trip to the bookstore, or something big, like a massage. Check out Spa Wish to purchase your own massage gift certificate -- but don't allow yourself to use it until you finish all of your workouts!

In thinking about it, I've found that what motivates me changes from day to day -- what got me moving today may not do a darned thing tomorrow. If that's true for you, that means digging deep to find that thing -- that thought, feeling, goal, reward -- that gets you moving. Make motivation easier by eliminating your excuses before they happen. But, most of all, realize that this motivation thing gets easier with practice. When you exercise consistently, you gradually fill your motivational stores as you understand what makes you tick and what gets you moving. The more you practice, the better you'll get. You'll realize your actions are what generates that feeling you've been searching for -- motivation.

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