The Secret to Motivation

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

-Jim Rohn

January is the unofficial “It’s time to get back in shape” month every year. Law Enforcement work is a physically demanding job, and the New Year is a great time for any Police Officer to reevaluate their physical preparedness. In order to help Officers working to get back in shape, Premeditated Fitness is featuring a series of articles on Goals this month. So far we he discussed why Goals trump ResolutionsHow to Set Goals like a Pro, and how to Reach Your Goals with Systems. This article will cover motivation – that burning desire to change that gets you started; and what to do when it isn’t there.

By this time every January, 90% or more of the people who made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape give up. If you talk to one of these quitters and ask why, you will almost always here motivation listed as a reason. They were “all fired up” on New Year’s day to get in shape. However eating healthy and/or working out regularly is demanding and they just don’t have the time and motivation to keep it up.

The secret that those quitters never learned is that motivation is always fleeting. Motivation is a fickle mistress who preys on your emotions and ignores logic. Motivation can absolutely be harnessed to make a change, however you need more than just motivation to keep the change going because motivation never lasts. So let’s take a look at what to do when motivation strikes, and how to fabricate motivation when it isn’t there.

Harness Motivation when it Strikes

Motivation is a symptom of something greater, the underling desire for why you want to change. We will call it your “Why”, and your job is to find out What is your Why?. What follows is an excerpt from the Lean & Fierce Accountability Workbook:

Figuring out your “Why” is the answer to the questions “Why did you purchase this book?”, “Why did you feel it was time for a change?”, and “Why are you focusing on improving your fitness now?”

Now the answer may seem simple: “I want to get fit”, “I need to lose fat”, or “I have to be in shape to be an effective officer.” However these are not what your “Why” is. They are the beginning of an answer, but they are vague. Everyone knows they need to get fit, lose fat, or be in shape to be an effective officer on duty.

So before you answer this question, pretend you are explaining it to a curious eight year old child. What will this child do when you answer the question? The child will ask follow up questions such as “why?”, “why is that important?”, “how?”, or “what?”. Children are great at asking the obvious.

Keep answering the question, and answer the annoying eight year old’s follow up questions. You will be having a dialogue with yourself, and this may feel unnatural at first, but try it a few times and you will find out “What is Your Why.”

Once you know your Why, you have a clearer understanding of what your actual motivation is. Once you know your Why, boil it down into one sentence. Then try to capture the essence of that sentence in a short saying, preferably just a few words. This will become your mantra. I know, “mantra” sounds all hippy-dippy, but trust me here. Your mantra will be a short phrase that completely sums up your underlying motivating factors. It allows you to have motivation, and more importantly, discipline on tap. 

My Why was (and still is) this: “I wanted to be strong, so that I could be a force to be reckoned with on duty, and to have pride and confidence in my appearance.” I boiled it down into the following mantra: “Lean & Fierce.” I wrote it in my food journal and training log. I said it to myself every time I looked in the mirror, thought about hitting the drive-thru after work, or considered skipping a workout. I lived and breathed the idea of Lean & Fierce until I became it.

Listen, I know talking to cops about “Whys” and “Mantras” is a hard sell. The main take away is that motivation towards a goal becomes much easier to maintain when you can direct your focus on where you want to be.

Find out your mantra and try it out for a week. It is awkward at first, but once you get used to it you will wonder how you got by without it. Once you figure out your mantra tell me about it. Put it in the comments or shoot me an email.

Fabricate Motivation with Discipline

When you first start working towards a goal, motivation is easy because the goal is fresh and exciting. Eventually, that new shine will wear off and everyday life gets in the way. This is usually the time most of the New Year’s Resolution crowd gives up. The secret to motivation is to know that it is not going to last, and that to achieve any goal you need to rely on discipline. 

That super fit guy on your shift that works out 4 or 5 times a week and eats healthy is not more motivated than you; he’s just more disciplined. Luckily, discipline can be built into any system by adopting healthy habits. Try the following examples:

Habits for Eating Healthy

  • Plan Weekly Meals – Plan, shop for, and prepare all of your meals for a week on an off day. It will take a few hours, but it will make eating healthy a breeze.
  • Use a Crockpot – Crockpot meals are super easy (and often delicious). Try throwing a meal in the crockpot when you leave for work. When you get off duty you won’t be tempted to stop for junk because there will already be something healthy waiting at home.
  • Look at Menus Ahead of Time– If you know you will be eating out, look at the menu ahead of time and decide what healthy option you want before you get to the restaurant when you are hungry and will be tempted by other options.
  • Keep a Food Journal – This is the most effective thing you can do to develop long term discipline with healthy eating. Being able to look back and review your week to see what worked and what didn’t work is an invaluable tool. Also, most people underestimate how much they actually eat; the food journal keeps a lasting record.

Habits for Working Out

  • Schedule Your Training – Write down when, where, and how you will be exercising in your calendar app or day planner. Once it is scheduled, treat it just like you would a shift On-Duty. There are days where you force yourself to go to work even though you might not feel like. Treat your training the same way. Getting to the gym is 90% of the battle.
  • Get a Training Partner – Find someone to either workout with, or at least discuss working out with. Find someone on your shift if possible since you have regular interaction with them. Go to the gym and train with them, or at least discuss your training program and daily workouts with them. “Accountability Partner” is another hippy term, but it works.
  • Hire a Coach –  This works well if you can’t find a training partner. Don’t bother with a personal trainer. Find an actual strength and conditioning coach. The athletic departments of local universities or crossfit coaches are a good place to start looking.
  • Keep a Training Log– You aren’t training for something fleeting or superficial like fitting into a suit for a wedding or looking good at a high school reunion. Your chosen career path requires physical fitness. Therefore, your training will be a lifelong, or at least a career long, activity. Being able to go back and look at what worked and what didn’t work in the past is invaluable. And once you get a streak of consistency going in your training log, you will want to keep that streak going.

Motivation is fleeting and relying on it alone will eventually lead to failure. However you can use motivation to develop discipline. And Discipline is the secret to long term motivation.

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MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, dietitian, or personal trainer. Consult your doctor before starting any fitness or nutrition plan.