Yesterday I noticed a famous trainer on Instagram encouraging people to “not give up with their resolutions and just power through!” to lose weight. This is terrible motivational advice. Willpower fails to compel or support the life-changes required to establish new behaviors. Even people with powerful personalities possess other motivational factors which enable change. I’ve pulled together a few insights gathered from experts on motivation and other scientific studies. (Check out Charles Duhigg, Adam Grant, & Sheryl Sandberg for evidence based research.)


Stack Probabilities

People fail (to lose weight) when they only use one strategy. This applies to many disciplines. Stack probabilities.

  1. Are you open exercise? Great. Exercise, and know that it strengthens your body, increases caloric burning, and helps longevity, but remember that is only one facet of transformation in a sea of others. It is one part of caloric expenditure. There are others.
  2. Your brain burns even more calories. So rather than obsessing over calories, eat to fuel your brain, spike your metabolism, clean your body, and increase your emotional health. Drop fast-burning insulin and emotion intensive sugar and wheat for natural fats and slow burning grains. And dump processed food completely.
  3. Speaking of emotional health, add napping to your day and eight hours of sleep on a diurnal schedule. Few things are more powerful for regulating your emotional state. Adding one hour of sleep produces the same spike in happiness as a $60,000 raise.
  4. Increase social investment – it will boost your serotonin levels. Engage with your community, make friends who support you unconditionally. Make friends who are kind to you and encourage you.

Keep going. Stack more probabilities. 1% gains in surprising areas can have 10% payoffs. Perfect your process.


Build Motivation & Reduce Impediments

That’s four probabilities – exercise, food, emotion, social investment – a fourfold increase on reaching exercise commitments. “Commitment” itself is not a given – it is a platform we build and maintain on a foundation of reward. This is clear in relationships – if our partner doesn’t habitually do a thing we want them to do and has no compelling reminder, they will never remember. You body is the same. People fail to lose weight because they fail to reward establish a cue to remind them of action. Leave your gym bag on the front seat of the car, or your running shoes in a conspicuous place. Schedule a workout in your calendar or signup for a class. Make the action a given, rather than a choice.


Reward Yourself Every Time

If our partner does good and we punish them, they will stop doing good. People fail to achieve goals because they never assign a reward to drive difficult or innocuous but important behavioral change. Look at it this way – when you accomplish something hard, you need an opportunity to feel good about yourself. When you’re exhausted, sweaty, and feeling gross, full of lactic acid and free radicals, counterbalance the difficulty with goodness – watch your favorite show, take a nap, eat a piece of dark chocolate, take a shot of wheat grass, have sex, or save small purchases for post-workout rewards. Do something which your psyche likes. Better yet, do something your body likes too.


Set Short Goals

Weight is one goal. Long-term motivation is hard without markers along the way. So set a long-term stretch goal, but give smaller rewards and accomplishments as you move forward. Listen to the inner voice of satisfaction and let this voice speak about other successes – celebrate increasing run durations, using harder weights, achieving single-size drops, and more. Each marker can provide powerful endorphin surges which make progress, growth, and change worthwhile.


Embrace Your Body-type

In addition to listening to your body, work with it. There are different muscle types – endurance, power, speed. Usain Bolt does not run marathons; Arnold Schwarzenegger does not run sprints. Take an honest look at your capabilities and work with them. Get to know and appreciate your genetic predispositions. A wide frame is better for lifting or dancing than running. A narrow, light frame is ideally suited to yoga or aerobics rather than heavy weights. Get to know and appreciate your body’s unique capabilities.


Forward motion is not increasing motivation, but decreasing resistances!!


~ Dave Wallace, MS Psy


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