After I publish my next article, I get tons of messages asking me to put together a programme. I would love to help everyone, but there is almost always one problem. I don’t want to play Stanislavsky, but I ask everyone: what is your motivation? Why do you want to bend the bar with this weight? Or put ground flax seeds in a protein shake? Or to run up that hill with a backpack whose straps cut through the trapeze and dumbbells whose bars are slipping out of your fingers?
Motivation is an interesting thing
Trainers, for some reason, love it when motivated clients come to them. Here, for example, is a portrait of my ideal patient:
Julie has a reunion in three months. Her ex-best friend who is now married to her ex-spouse, who cheated with her best friend, who wasn’t her ex at the time, will be there. And then there will be Phil, the old boyfriend she never quite got over and who is now swimming in money by selling Microsoft stock at a profit. Only Julie is now 10 kilos heavier than the cheerful cheerleader they all remember, and asks you to help her lose weight for an important meeting.
If you say “Well, let’s start by strengthening ligaments and tendons with preparatory exercises for 10 weeks”, she’ll go off in search of another trainer without listening to the end of that recommendation.
She expects something like this: “So, eat only eggs for a month, 8 litres of water a day, start at the gym every morning and sprints in the evenings. I also have some vitamins, banned by the Ministry of Health, will also help.”
The toughest, most murderous workouts will be gladly accepted. This is no time for half measures. Not only does Julie need to get a girlfriend, she also needs to teach her ex-husband a lesson and impress her potential fiancé; she’s so motivated, she could plough through three months of work.
However, more often than not, coaches have to work with the GOOD clients, such as… most of us! We understand what we want to look like and how much to lift, but we still can’t choose a methodology and don’t have a deadline that forces us to take the job. So let’s talk about setting goals and gaining motivation.
Three phases of desire
Usually, people take up changing their lives 2 times a year. The first is, of course, the New Year. Try at the beginning of January to find a free treadmill at your gym. The second is the beginning of school, when everyone comes back from their grandmothers and looks at each other. It’s easy to work on yourself at school or college: gyms, swimming pools, football and track and field fields, rings and tatami are all around you every day; lots of friends are doing something (these are schools and colleges in the USA – Zohodnik’s obvious note).
In adulthood, it’s the other way around. Buddies sitting behind neighbouring partitions in the office are totally uninspired by your suggestion to go to the gym. And when you go alone and work out heroically, you don’t get the cheerleading squad staring at you. So the art of reaching a goal is just for adults.
In my opinion, our desire to work on ourselves goes through 3 stages of maturation. The problem is simple: we know what we have to do. I’ll say it again: almost everyone who reads this article knows perfectly well how to get rid of fat and gain muscle. Teaching this is like teaching you to brush your teeth.
So, I distinguish 3 phases of our striving to achieve something:
1. “I’d like that.”
2. “I can.”
3. “I have to.”
Each can be useful in its own way, but success in life (and in the gym) comes only when we are in the “have to” stage. Let’s take a closer look.
The stage of “It would be nice to have”.
Ever since childhood, we have been taught this phase:
– It wouldn’t hurt to go to college.
– Wouldn’t mind getting a job.
– Wouldn’t mind mowing the lawn.
And these are really good wishes from our loved ones. The only problem is that most of us train at the gym and diet with this ‘not bad’ attitude. At one seminar, the lecturer kept repeating, “Stop talking yourself into it”. It was funny… at first, but then it got to me.
After all, this is how we continue to act, even though we’ve already entered adulthood:
- It would be nice to lose a few kilos.
- It wouldn’t be a bad idea to go to the gym more often.
- It wouldn’t be a bad idea to choose healthier foods.
And it usually goes nowhere. You notice the problem, but you distract yourself by watching soap operas and chips and you let it get in the way of your life. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably grown out of the “Not bad” phase, but you definitely know plenty of people who are stuck in it.
The “Can” stage.
This is where you take the first step towards success. In addition to knowing how to act, you have some confidence that the task is within your grasp. When a person says “I can”, they already have an understanding of how they are going to achieve the goal.
– You know, I can lose a few pounds. Play with my calorie deficit.
– You know, I could go to the gym more often. Like right after work.
– You know, I can go harder on this diet.
In this phase, knowledge is already starting to become power. However, although you have KNOWLEDGE, the strength to do what you want to do is still lacking. And frankly, all of the above is worthless until you get to the “must do” stage. That alone makes champions.
The “must do” stage.
The best way to diet I heard from (just don’t laugh!) Tony Robbins. And he learned it from one of his clients. It’s called the “Dog Diet” and it works like this: you invite a dozen friends over. And solemnly declare that at the end of the month you will lose five pounds. And if not – then eat a can of dog food.
The very next week, when your hand reaches for the candy bar on a co-worker’s desk, simply reread the contents on the dog food jar. If someone offers you a piece of cake oozing syrup, open the tin and take a good sniff.
Here we get to the heart of the matter: People are rarely excited by the joy of achievement; they are often driven by pain.
Pleasure and suffering
I ask my students to fill in a simple chart by answering the questions:
– What are the pleasures of achieving a goal?
– What are the sufferings of failure?
However, here are a couple more, the answers to which make a lot of difference:
– What is the suffering of achieving a goal? (Read it carefully!)
– What are the pleasures of failure?
I’ve worked with dozens of athletes, and few of them could rousingly describe the joys of achieving a goal. “I wish I could make it to the Olympics” sounds lukewarm compared to “I’ll have to eat dog food if I don’t achieve it”.
Most of the victories over yourself are the ones that lead to pain! Someone complains they can’t even run a mile. If one says his child is tied to the rails a mile away, he won’t notice that distance!
But can achieving a goal bring suffering? As much as anything! Many athletes have moved up the league but soon quit training, unable to cope with the exertion. Of course, that’s how great sports are, but the life of an ordinary person is full of examples:
– If you lose weight, you have to spend money on a new wardrobe.
– If you get into the top ten (in anything), you’ll be pestered with the question, “When are you going to be first?”
– The diploma dilemma: now I’ve got that pretty little book, but what do I do next?
Is there anything satisfying about not reaching your goal? Of course there is. If people didn’t revel in their failures so much (that’s me still trying to put it mildly), there wouldn’t be so many shows where they cry to the world.
Many sports careers have been blighted by ‘relationships’, cars, yachts and all the other things that take up time and energy. I agree that love can be more important than sport, but generally you have to define your goals and learn to combine them. Other things can be neglected if you really want to achieve something in life.
For example, nothing’s gonna stop Julie from losing those 10 kilos. She’ll lose it and more or she’ll have to eat dog food! Remembering the betrayal of her ex-girlfriend and husband, she will continue to eat nothing but eggs and water when most of us spit and go back to chips and TV shows. Pain motivates better; too bad, but such is life.
How to make a goal your ‘duty’
A couple of suggestions:
– First, talk to your colleagues in the hall; find those who have already achieved your goal. Tell them you want to achieve the same thing and ask for their help.
– Second, buy a jar of dog food or find some other ‘painful’ stimulation technique. For example, if you don’t lose 5 kilos, your brother will send your papers to the army recruitment office.
Or here’s another idea: create a post on social media, posting your “Before” photo and announcing that there will be an “After.” Good friends on the internet will keep pulling up the photo until you make good on your promise.
– Unusual move: Start “acting” as if you’ve already achieved what you want. Walk proudly down the beach as if those 5 kilos were gone, or buy new clothes (in a smaller size). If you behave as if it’s already done, it’s sometimes done without much effort.
Victory from defeat is most often separated by the same question they’ve been torturing you with in acting classes for ages: “What’s my motivation?” So once again, breathe in the magical scent of dog food and get back into the power frame!