Get Motivated!

Have you set exercise goals but then give up before achieving your goal?

Do you often set goals in your life that you ultimately don‘t achieve?  Why do you think it is so challenging to stay focused and motivated?  Well, people are complex and often contradictory in their actions.  You may say you want to exercise regularly, yet behave in ways that directly or subtly sabotage you efforts. Here are a few recommendations for developing your inner motivational muscle.

Be Clear About What You Want… and Why  

Think about what will make you feel healthy and whole.  Ask yourself, “If I were committed to my exercise program during the next 6 months, what outcome would I most desire?  Be as clear as possible about why you want that outcome and then ask yourself “What will I gain from achieving my goal?  Will I be healthier, happier or more connected to people?”  Without the clarity, obstacles tend to loom and become magnified.  With clarity, you can discover whether your motivation is negative or positive. If it is negative find a positive motivator to assist you with achieving your goal.

Determine Step-By-Step Actions

 Brainstorm for the specific actions that will help you reach you goal. Like goals, actions need to be specific and measurable.  They must define what you will do, by when and with whom.  For example:  If your goal is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 6 months, and you need to lose twenty pounds to be ready.  What actions can you take to support that goal?  Exercise?  How often, when, where, and with whom?  Visit a registered dietician to see how to trim fat and calories from your diet? Buy healthy foods at least once a week so that you’ll have them available at home but more importantly for when on the road with business travel.  Setting appropriate actions is the key to getting where you want to be.

Adopt Helpful Attitudes

 What attitudes can you consciously take on throughout the process of reaching your goal? Your attitudes, more than any other factors, will help you follow through on actions.  Language is important.  Listen to your self-talk-the chatter inside your head that assesses your place in the world, affecting your mood and, ultimately, your behavior.  Self-talk can either pummel you to the ground or propel you to success with your exercise goals.  Use empowering words like “I will” instead of uncertain ones like “I’ll try” (Which usually means that you won’t!)

Practice eliminating the damaging and self-defeating talk.  In Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman suggests we learn to capture automatic thoughts (which are often negative), evaluate them for accuracy and replace them with more optimistic thoughts.  Work on being courageous, self-nurturing, committed, hopeful and flexible.  Learn to let go of the past failures, frustrations, limitations, negative self-talk and perfectionism, and set your mind firmly on the path of toward achieving your goal.

 Hire Professional Support

Consider hiring a personal trainer or professional coach to help you reach your goals.  Look for a professional who will not only give you accurate, safe training information but also will tell you the truth.  Truth ultimately empowers you.  When a trainer tells you the truth about your obstacles and what you need to do to reach your goals, you can honestly evaluate your choices and direction.  Look for someone who will also cheer you on, remind you of specific achievements and provide more opportunities for success.


Motivational Resources

  • Carlson, R; & Bailey, J 1997. Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How to Create a More Peaceful, Simpler Life From the Inside Out.
  • Larsen, K. 2001. “Think, Choose, Win: The Fundamentals of Self-Coaching”
  • Seligman, M.E.P. 1991. Learned Optimism.  New York:  A. Knopf


Sean Cutter MS, CSCS, ACE CPT, Titleist Performance Institute Fitness L1

Exercise Physiologist Princeton Longevity Center