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Being Too Positive Can Keep You Unmotivated

How do you get and keep motivation to do something that you are not too excited to do like exercise? 

We are in the gym migration season, when humans en masse flock to the local gyms, rec centers or home workout rooms with the goal of burning off the excesses from the holidays. Yet it’s a well known fact that most of these humans will not make it to their intended goals. Most will find it too daunting of a task and many will quit after a few weeks. So how can you be one of the few that survive the initial influx of gym goers and still be there months after all the others have faded away? 

You have to  build and sustain the desire to keep motivated once the original impulse has worn off. That is, you have to find the motivation to keep going when the pull to quit gets strong. I touched on a previous article on “finding your WHY” The goal of that article is to help you drill down to a point of emotion that you can draw on to keep you going after the initial excitement of your exercise decision wears off. That article’s example focused on what is called positive motivation. It works as a way to pull you towards something you desire.

Yet, sometimes positive motivation isn’t enough to keep you going. Sometimes you need to build motivation from a negative perspective. This can be a very powerful motivator if you use it correctly it will push you away from consequences associated with not doing the work. . 

How to build effective negative motivation?

First off, what this isn’t. Motivation from a negative perspective isn’t about negative self-talk or putting yourself down. This type of self-talk leads you away from your goals and actually reduces your motivation to continue.  Instead motivation from a negative perspective is pushing you to stay away from what would happen if you didn’t exercise consistently. 

Why this works is that humans naturally want to move away from negative and uncomfortable situations and outcomes. So if you set up a few emotional touch points that feel negative and uncomfortable to draw on then it can push you to keeping motivated to working out. To set this up you need to ask yourself a few questions that can elicit a few emotions that you want to stay away from. 

Humans naturally want to move away from negative and uncomfortable situations and outcomes.

  • What will my life look like a year from now if I don’t change anything?
  • How will my health change in that time?
  • If you are not happy with where you are right now how much more will that unhappy feeling be next year? 

By meditating on these questions and what your life will look like a year from now or further out if you decided not to take certain actions can motivate you towards doing the action

Not wanting to go backwards

An example of this comes from a client of mine who, when she first started with me, used a strong negative motivation to reach her goals. Five years ago when she had her by-pass surgery part of her motivation came from being tired of all the daily medication and injections she needed. It had gotten to a point that this was a miserable way to live. In addition, taking time to contemplate what her life would be like a year or two without any changes was terrifying to her. While that was 5 years ago, this negative motivation still pushes her towards her workout sessions. This isn’t to say she only used negative motivation to push her away from a life she did not want. Over the years she also noticed more and more positive aspects that come from her consistently exercising, like getting stronger, healthier and having a more positive outlook on her future. So while initially she was motivated by avoiding the negative aspects of not doing the work, it was this push away from a life she didn’t want that generated a more positive outlook on her future that has been pulling her forward. 

So if you are contemplating making a big change over these next few months, congratulations, that’s always a big step. Also if you are worried that you may not be able to keep motivated, take some time to ask yourself some challenging questions about your future without doing the work it can help push you forward.

As always if you need help with this or want to explore it more feel free to contact me and we can set up a time to help you navigate all of this and more.