Motivation: is it a renewable resource?

06 Jan, 2016

"I haven't got much motivation" is a frequent cry of despair on the forum: as if some people were given a lot of motivation by the kind fairies and others are cursed by the wicked fairy who took away their willpower at birth.

Unfortunately, if I see my motivation as outside my control, there is no incentive to do anything about it. However if motivation is a renewable resource, there is something I can do: I can build my reserves and go to them when temptation strikes.

In this, as in all my dieting, I have been very influenced by Judith Beck's book about using cognitive behaviour therapy principles to lose weight and keep it off, The Beck Diet Solution: train your brain to think like a thin person.

I started by making a list – everyone's will be different, but consider your personal hopes, expectations, and intentions about weight loss.

How will losing weight change your:

  • Health
  • Appearance
  • Dress style
  • Confidence
  • Physical abilities

Make your list detailed and specific (and positive where possible). Make it really long too – mine comes in around two dozen items, and I redo it from time to time to keep it fresh. All of these things are what motivates me to keep going in the hard times. I "top up" my motivation by reading this list regularly: not just reading it, but prioritising it, thinking about which items have been most helpful to me, seeing each item as a goal and rating how close I have got to it.

Judith Beck suggests working on your list several times a day, every day to start with. You do this from the start, while your natural motivation is high, to build up your reserves when you need them.

I have found, this time round, that it is much more helpful to actually do this (write out my list and work on it regularly) than it is to think, "that sounds a good idea, but too much hassle to actually do." Yes, it takes time. Yes, it gets boring. But I only discovered the power of this approach when I actually did it!

And talking of boring: I am deeply bored and profoundly unhappy with being dissatisfied with my weight, appearance and fitness. I chose the minor tedium of working on my motivational list over the boredom of being too fat.

Which would you choose?