How to Instill Motivation

How to Instill Motivation

Of all the reasons our clients come to us, motivation – or lack thereof – is one we here all of the time. For a myriad of reasons, our clients often times are unmotivated to get started on the path to reaching their health and fitness goals.

Maybe they don’t know what to do to get there (this is the most common answer), they don’t have a plan, they are inconsistent with their workouts, or it could be a combination of all of these reasons.

One of the keys to our program is instilling intrinsic motivation in our clients. That is – motivation to engage in an activity or behavior because the activity or behavior itself is satisfying and enjoyable. But how do we do it?

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, Why We do What We Do – Understanding Self-Motivation. In it, the author suggests there are really three keys to intrinsic motivation.


Autonomy, as defined by the author, is the “means to act freely, with a sense of volition and choice” (Deci 89).

The key here is choice. You can’t feel coerced or forced into action, otherwise it will be demotivating or it simply won’t happen.

A good example of this is the well-intentioned spouse/significant other who is trying to get his or her spouse/significant other to start working out. How does that work out? It doesn’t.

The individual must make the choice on his or her own. That’s the only way it’s going to happen.

Often times, a person has to reach a breaking point to make a decision to change.

A doctor’s visit concludes with doc telling you you’re pre-diabetic.

Your pants don’t fit. Oh no!

Whatever it is, you must make the decision. This doesn’t mean you can’t get support from your spouse or significant other, but ultimately it must be your decision to change.

Make Success Attainable

You have to see success as something you can achieve. If it doesn’t seem attainable, you won’t get started. This doesn’t mean success has to be super easy, although I recommend it in the beginning.

You want to stack your successes in the beginning stages, because this will continue to motivate you as you go along.

Maybe your initial goal is working out 1x/week. Fine – if that’s what’s attainable. Start there and scale up to 2x/week after you make it 1x/week for 3 or 4 weeks.

After this, you can start to make your goals a bit more challenging, but in the beginning, set easy goals! Feeling successful and competent is important for continued intrinsic motivation.


People have a innate need to love, be loved and be connected to others. When this need is met, it enhances motivation. When it’s not, well…you get the picture.

The key here, in our case, is connected. My advice to you would be find some form of social support or community as you strive to reach your health and fitness goals. This could be working out with your spouse/significant other or friend, hiring a coach or mentor to guide you, joining a class or a running group or a weight loss support group like Weight Watchers, etc.

When you are connected to others who are in a similar place, who have similar goals, it makes you feel like you belong. It’s motivating to know you’re not alone. There are other people just like you!

These people will help lift you up when you’re not feeling great about yourself, congratulate you on your successes, and help motivate you to continue on your path to your goals.

You, of course, can do the exact same thing for them.

Whatever you decide, don’t go it alone! Social support is soooooo important and will help motivate you along the way.

I hope you find this helpful as you strive to become the best version of you.

Deci, Edward L. Why We Do What We Do Understanding Self Motivation. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

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