November 19, 2020
Motivation is the reason people do the things they do and it can also be a driving force to overcome barriers to success. Whether it’s extrinsic or intrinsic motivation, it’s what causes someone to want to repeat a behaviour. It is also considered one of the most important reasons that inspire us to move forward in life.
Then, why is motivation so freaking hard to find, sometimes?!
How come I just give up and quit?
Am I ever going to be able to achieve my goals?
Why aren’t I good enough?
We’ve all asked ourselves these questions at some point. They apply to so many situations in virtually every part of our lives, but we’ll be staying in our lane, and discussing motivation as it relates to exercise.
According to Psychology Today, “from the moment we embark on any endeavor, numerous reasons immediately present themselves that push us to quit (e.g., fear of failure, fear of success, laziness, failing to believe in ourselves, etc.).”
Like many things, quitting isn’t so much a problem as it is a consequence of the barriers we put in front of ourselves. For example, imagine you’re running around a track and you place a hurdle in your lane. You might be able to get over the first and second one without too much trouble, but the more hurdles you run into, the slower and harder it is to reach your goal. By the time you’ve fought your way to the tenth one, you’re ready to give up. Now imagine those hurdles are the reasons or the barriers that make us quit. Some of these barriers are there at the start, like fear of failure, while others show up afterwards, undermining our success later on.
Here are three reasons we end up quitting:
Having unreasonable or unclear expectations is a problem that you need to fix before you start out. If you are just starting to get back into shape, adopting that intense diet and going to the gym six days a week right out the gate may not be the best idea. Be honest with yourself about your abilities, and set your plans accordingly.
Does this sound familiar? If you feel like doing something, you do it. But if you get bored, or if it gets too hard, or if you don’t feel like it anymore, you don’t do it. The key is seeing this as a separate, larger problem and then actively building up your willpower and discipline—actively experimenting with overriding your emotions and acting in spite of how you feel.
Research shows (and we all know) that it’s easy to be motivated at the start of a new endeavor. Using functional MRI, scientists have identified several brain regions associated with this “honeymoon phase” that are rich in dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation.
But when the going gets tough, once the newness wears off, or when expectations aren’t being met, the boredom sets in. This is when a support system or rewards that make habits stick is crucial. Since we know this is generally the nature of starting out, we can anticipate it and build in rewards and support along the way.
If you have a pattern of motivational issues, it’s easy to cast yourself into the role of “quitter” and just stop trying. Instead, look back at your experiences and past behaviours to discover how you get derailed. Once you know the root problems, you can eliminate them and start to build motivation.
Also, don’t do it alone. Sometimes it can be hard to achieve things on your own, so having a good support network may help when you’ve taken on a big challenge. Other people’s encouragement to keep going can be a big boost to your motivation, particularly when the going gets tough.