You’ve just gotten home. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You just want to sit down, maybe grab a bag of potato chips, and start streaming whatever you are binge watching now. We all know how easy it can be to fall into this pattern of repetition, the trick is finding the motivation to not fall into this potentially self-destructive pattern.
For me it all turned around the year my brothers and I decided to buy dirt bikes after having taken a few year hiatus from the sport. We all ended up with what we had chosen and then one day one brother, a friend, and I went to ride at the Saint Anthony Sand Dunes. When we got out there it was a familiar feeling, I had ridden here many many times before. The problem was that the sand was familiar, but my body wasn’t. After getting my ass kicked at pretty much everything that we did that day and being super nervous about getting hurt I decided change was in order. My goal became to be “in shape” by the time I turned 30. This was a little more than a year out at this point and I figured if I got my shit together that it would be doable.
I started weighing myself, which in itself was pretty depressing. I had been made fun of a few years before by a few people when we had all stepped on the scale in front of each other and hadn’t gotten on one since. It may sound like a stupid reason to not have done it, but it was my reason and it worked for me at the time. Once I got over how much I weighed I was taught by an uncle about tracking what I eat. So, I started tracking everything. And I mean everything. I went from eating whatever I wanted to making sure that I didn’t eat anything extra at all. I was counting the approximate calories that I was burning during the exercise that I was doing but I wasn’t trying to eat to ‘cover’ the balance. I wanted to see the number on the scale go down.
And it did. It went down pretty fast too. What started because I realized I couldn’t do the fun things I wanted to became a reason in itself to keep going. Seeing the number on the scale tick downwards steadily was itself rewarding enough to keep me moving on the path I had chosen. I learned and tried different things to make sure I could manage hunger cravings, which coming from an ‘eat whatever you want’ diet can be pretty tough. I also learned that different types of foods were much more filling, so processed foods went out the window. I started eating healthier and had more energy as a result, combined with the weight loss I was starting to feel pretty good.
Weight loss plateaus happen. They have happened to me and I still have more to loose but I know that I can get through them if I do the right things. I read a lot more about food and how it affects the human body than I ever thought I would have a few years ago. Learning that what you put in has a large say in what comes out is a pretty hard lesson, especially when you love cookies.
Now my motivation comes in the forms of exercise and hobbies that I have picked up. Cycling has become a huge part of my life. Getting on the road and not worrying about work or whatever else it is that is the worry of the day is a big stress reliever for me. The motivation for that used to be loosing weight, and it still plays a part, but now the motivation is because I actually really enjoy it. It may sound crazy to people who haven’t tried it and only see ‘idiots in Lycra’ taking up space on the road but it really is quite enjoyable, especially in a group.
Playing the violin is one hobby that I picked up recently. I started only a year and a half ago at this point. It seemed crazy at the time to decide to start so late in life but I only have this life and if I want to do something, who is going to stop me besides myself? I had learned that the hard way with weight gain and loss. I started and had some short goals, the first one was to play a song that was recognizable at a recital (yes I have played recitals, complete with five year old kids whose parents probably thought/think I am crazy). I played it, recognizably may be debatable, and I accomplished my goal. Now my goal is to become better. So I practice a few times a day usually. Not for hours each time, or even a half an hour each time, but usually for five to fifteen minutes. Whatever I can fit in without feeling like I’m beating my head against the wall but enough to make progress.
That’s probably what sums up motivation for me better than most anything now. I want to be better. Not than anyone else, after all, there is always someone better than you are. But to be better than I was yesterday or last week. It doesn’t have to be “I’m training to run across the country to raise awareness/money for world hunger”. It can be as simple as “Because I want to”. The trick is to find the reason that works for you. Mine used to be “I want to loose weight” for cycling and “I want to know how” for violin. Now those are secondary to “I want to have fun” for cycling and “I want to sound better” for violin. In a handful of years I went from being so minimally motivated to not even want to leave the house to motivated enough to ride my bike outside in the wind, rain, and hail. I went from being convinced that I wouldn’t be able to ever make playing the violin happen, to doing what I can to progress from week to week.
My cycling goal now is to keep riding and see how many 100 mile rides I can do this year, whether they’re arranged and supported rides with fully stocked rest areas or just one I try and put together with people I ride with. For violin I want to be good enough to play in the local orchestra at some point (this is a pretty long term goal more than likely but you never know).
Find what works for you, what can drive you, what you want, and make it happen. Be better than you were before. Always improve.