Motivation: it's a tricky enough concept to begin with, before throwing a worldwide pandemic into the mix. But (as of this writing) it's November of 2020, and coronavirus is definitely still a thing, and so here we are.
Attempting to adapt to a "new normal" -- one that is anything but normal -- has left many of us with a lot of *feels*...especially where our fitness is concerned. It has been a mix of scary, and confusing, and frustrating, and embarrassing, and defeating: sometimes in waves, and sometimes all at once.
With the majority of the obstacle course race events being cancelled pretty early on (many were cancelled by early/mid-April), OCR athletes were left at a crossroads: continue to train (without knowing whether a 2020 event will even happen), or take a step back from training until races resume...and run the risk of losing ALL of your gains in the process.
It didn't take long for the widespread consensus across the OCR world to become clear: we should continue to train - not letting a little thing like a "pandemic" get in our way - and we would be that much more prepared whenever our next event does happen. People posted photos from previous races with motivational captions about how "We'll be back before you know it! Will YOU be ready??" or videos of their workouts with encouraging messages to "keep training no matter what!"
...And that seemed to work for awhile...kind of.
As the weeks went on, it seemed like some of us were able to continue training regiments relatively uninterrupted, or adapt to their new situation with relative ease. Meanwhile many others continued to struggle to adjust, with mounting frustration watching the gaps between themselves and their still-training race buddies continue to widen. Then the self-doubt started to creep in, along with the negative self-talk:
"What's wrong with me...why does *John Doe Spartan* still kick ass and I can't even get off the couch?"
"When will my motivation come back like everyone else's has? Is my real problem that, deep down, I don't actually care about training that much...and that's why I haven't been able to get motivated to exercise??"
If any of this sounds like you: you're in good company. And you're also in luck: because as it turns out, that #MondayMotivation post actually isn't what's going to make or break the success of your fitness goal, anyway.
There is something much better and more efficient out there: something that can make all your wildest dreams come true. But before we get to where we're going we have to understand where we're starting from.
People are different.
They have different personalities.
People want to do different things in their lifetime, and they have different goals: with different reasons why they want to achieve those goals and different motivators encouraging them to work towards them.
Even when we're going after the same goal as someone else, each of us has a unique set of "motivators" based on a bunch of factors that shape our world view including: our value system, our life experiences, how we were raised, and the people/influences currently surrounding us.
...So it makes sense that our motivators are constantly evolving throughout our lifetime just as we are, and in response to our shifts in priorities and perspectives. Everyone still with me?
Now don't get me wrong, Fam: motivation is great. FEELING motivated is great. I like to think of it as that warm... *fuzzy* feeling that connects the thing you wanna do with the reasons why you wanna do it.
...Which is good: because it gives you clarity on why you actually care about that thing/why it's important to you. It's also a very handy thing to know...especially when you're in a funk and REALLY don't feel like "doing the stuff" to "work toward the thing," and you need to give yourself a little pep talk...a.k.a., when you need to self-motivate.
When you feel motivated you feel like you're on top of the world and can handle ANYTHING that gets thrown your way, because you're ready to rock and GET. SH*T. DONE.
...motivation is only part of the story. Because feeling motivated will always be JUST THAT: a feeling. And feelings are fleeting. A magnificent wave of inspiration might *wash* over you and be the spark that gets you going on the way toward your goal, but it's unlikely that it will unwaveringly carry you across the Finish Line. (And the point we are building to here is to say: that's okay - it shouldn't have to!)
Somehow...at some point along the way...we collectively decided that feelings of motivation are the magic fairy dust that will inspire us to *SPRING* into action and achieve our wildest dreams.
Which kind of sucks because that's not necessarily actually how things work, and it sets up an expectation that makes us wonder if there's something WRONG with us if we AREN'T feeling super motivated at all times or - even worse - on days when we don't feel like doing anything at all.
"Is there something wrong with me?? The reason why I don't feel like doing xyz thing must be because...deep down...I don't actually CARE that much about it...right?
Because if I really CARED then wouldn't I be out there every day training just as hard as everyone else is?
WHO EVEN AM I??"
...Unfortunately this type of black-and-white thinking seems to be especially prevalent in the world of fitness, and (with a little help from social media) it has somehow inexplicably morphed into a widely-accepted reason to explain skipping a workout or even giving up altogether on a fitness goal.
...Like...what..?? How did this become a thing??
Think for a minute about one of the "big" things you've accomplished in your lifetime: something that took awhile to complete, or that makes you feel really proud of yourself. During the time you were working toward that goal, did you "feel" like doing the work involved every single day? Doubtful. But you kept doing it anyway, right? And you kept showing up: because you knew that the end result was important enough to make everything before it worth it (and you were right!).
As an example, just take a look at the artist Michelangelo. It took him four years to finish his work in the famous Sistine Chapel (pictured below): a project he was somewhat hesitant to take on in the first place. On top of that, the work itself was so physically taxing that he suffered permanent damage to his his eyesight.
Do you think he was feeling super "motivated" to work on that project every single time he walked into the chapel? Do you think he woke up every morning like "heck yeah let's DO this!" as he jumped out of bed and grabbed some paintbrushes? Probably not. But if he had dragged the project out by only working on it when he felt like it, we might have missed out on one of the most celebrated works of art of all time.
...Need a more current example, to explain why you shouldn't just "give up" on your goals (like fitness) when you don't feel like it, and why it's silly to think that "it must not be that important to you" if you're not feeling the motivation-mojo?
Well then, it's time to take a field trip back to school: college, that is.
Pretty much anyone who has finished college will agree (to some extent) with the following statement: there were times when, for one reason or another, you did not feel excited/motivated to do your assigned coursework.
But in those moments, you probably didn't think to yourself "Man I don't feel like studying tonight. I guess that means I don't care that much about college and I should just quit." ...because getting a college degree is one of those Big Cool Lifelong Goals. And achieving that goal is something you pursue in hopes that it will positively impact the rest of your life...and that's not something you give up on just because sometimes the material was boring, or because one of your professors was a jerk.
Looking at each of these examples from this perspective, it seems obvious that you wouldn't debate whether or not you should pursue a goal based on something as fickle/fleeting as motivation. We don't question or give up on our goals in other areas of life just because sometimes it's hard, and sometimes we "really don't feel like" doing the work...because we know that would be a totally lame excuse. So the million dollar question is: why do we let ourselves do that with our fitness goals??
So at this point the key takeaways are:
However: just as important as accepting the above is to take the next step: what to do now that you have had this revelation.
It's a shift in mindset that causes a shift in approach. It's nothing new, and is likely something you've heard before.
What will make it impactful for you this time (I hope) is the deep-dive, step-by-step walkthrough of why it really is "that simple"...even if that still doesn't make it "easy."
...Feeling curious?? I know you are! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article mini-series: coming soon!
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