There is an exhilaration in beginning a health initiative. We feel like we have attained our goal because we have decided to go for the goal. We tend to buy all of the books and equipment, join all the right support groups and buy the right work-out clothes, and let’s not forget the shoes. Then we discover that in order to truly arrive at our goal, we must be in it for the long haul.
Our goal is a lifetime of health and vitality, a long term goal, so our initiative must also be long term. This is something that we will do from now on. That’s why it’s important to discover what really works and find a way for it to become our lifestyle. It’s important to find a way to make healthy changes pleasant because we will naturally want to incorporate them into our lives if they are. Quite often, our motivation for the changes is enough to create the drive to stick with them because anything that’s motivating creates pleasure and lights up the dopamine circuit in our brain. Consider your motives. They are very important. How do they make you feel, energized or drained? If you are energized by your motives, your success will come easier. That’s why we can’t be bullied or coerced into weight loss or working out. The bully behavior drains us and creates stress, the opposite of what we want.
When our motivation is right and the prefrontal cortex of our brain is lit up with dopamine, we will automatically remember that feeling on tough days. When difficulties arise that could derail us, we will find it easier to stay on track by pushing harder to get that feeling again. (1) That’s not to say that some days won’t be extremely difficult or that we will never get off track. It’s saying that in the long run, we will naturally gravitate back to that set point of pleasure that we know is there. Regardless of the choices that we are confronted with, we will always know what will provide that feeling of success that comes from staying committed to our decision to be healthy.
Howard Gardner wrote a book called “Good Work” that discusses the excellence of work that combines our best talents, energies and passions to perform work that is aligned with a sense of purpose, meaning and our direction in life. (1) This is a great description of a commitment to our health. When we pursue it with everything in us, it becomes an act of excellence. As we delve deeper into the healthy lifestyle, we are continually rewarded with the benefits of a healthy body which becomes it’s own reward.
What Creates Motivation?
David McClelland, a major theorist of motivation has proposed three main motivators for people. (1)
1- The need for power, one type being a heartless, selfish need but the other being a desire to help people. Setting a healthy example and spreading this lifestyle to help people live a healthy life is very rewarding.
2-The need to affiliate; taking pleasure in being with people and working towards a common goal. The healthy lifestyle provides a unique experience in this respect because together we are raging against the onslaught of a very unhealthy culture in most cases. We have a common cause.
3-The need for achievement, reaching toward a meaningful goal. Nothing gives us the feeling of achievement as much as successfully achieving our health goals. With optimum health, we are unstoppable.
Your Best Self
It’s necessary to stop short of perfectionism because it will take the joy out of everything. As David says, “Be the best that YOU can be. Don’t compare yourself to others.” If we fall into the trap of perfectionism, all we will do is work towards goals. We will never feel that we have attained them and always feel like we’re falling short. By giving our healthy lifestyle our best efforts and reveling in the results, whatever they are, we will create a life of joy.
When the internet was young, there was a young techie who really didn’t get much attention. He was devoted to continually improving his performance and even mastered a special math to develop his product. There was another very successful and popular business that seemed to be the up and coming thing but this young techie went his own way, determined to develop his unique product. People thought that his risk was huge, but he had confidence that he was doing what he should do even though it was not like anybody else. The company was called “Google” and the techie was Sergei Brin.