Are you seeking motivation?

Do you find yourself at the start of every year with a list of things that you know you should do, behaviours you want to change? But are unsure how to kick start the process?

Whether it is learning to swim, losing weight, getting fitter, saving more money, giving up smoking or reducing alcohol. All these ideas sound good at the time but can be hard to implement in the long term. Yet some people do. So what is their secret?

The definitions for motivation are many and varied but ‘self-starting’; ‘the drive to succeed’; ‘optimism in the face of failure’ are some that come to mind.

Basic Needs

Most human beings (according to Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation 1943) are motivated by a hierarchy of needs.

  • Physiological-body needs-food, water, sex, breathing etc.
  • Safety-security-financial-health
  • Social Needs-love/belonging-intimacy-family
  • Self Esteem-self respect-valued/accepted by others-attention-freedom
  • Self-actualization-chance to fulfill our potential, our passions, to be ourselves
  • Curiosity-desire to know and understand

Find your Passion

So if you can tie the thing you want to change to your basic needs and passions it becomes really easy to get cracking.

For instance to make a dietary change for the better…

  • A parent might be motivated by love for their family to eat well, loose weight so their children learn by example.
  • A couple wanting to have children might reduce their alcohol intake to improve their fertility.
  • An athlete might learn about sports nutrition to improve performance.
  • A middle aged man might drink more water if it helped reduce his belly, even more so if to loose weight also improved his sleep and libido.
  • An adolescent male might choose takeaways more carefully if their acne could be improved.

Over the years I have observed that improved health in itself is seldom a motivator- particularly for young people. It only becomes motivating when failing health impairs the ability to do the things they love.

What if you don’t have passion for things in life?

Sometimes people are too depressed, fightened or ambivalent about life to feel motivated to try anything new.

If you find it hard to feel excited about anything then make a list of the outcomes in life that you don’t want.

I once asked my son to take this approach. He was 17yrs old at the time, studying for Bursary and unsure of his career paths. He wrote that he didn’t want to be jobless; without friends, living on a park bench, hungry and cold. By reversing these things he found out what he did want i.e.) a job he enjoyed, friends, a home, food and shelter…Maslow’s theory of human needs!

Stages of Change and Motivation

In making any changes in life we go through five distinct stages of change during which there are accompanying actions that can help motivation (M)

1) Pre-contemplation– we may be unaware there is a problem until we receive news that things aren’t going well.

M-Information on the risks and health benefits may help us move forward.

2) Contemplation– we know there is a problem but swinging between wanting to change and not.

M-Writing down the pros and cons can help us make the decision.

3) Discuss/Determination– we may make plans to change

M-Writing down a realistic goal and timeframe can help us achieve it.

4) Action– we implement the change

M – Seeking the support of others can really help.

5) Maintenance– we keep up the changed behaviour but the challenge is to prevent relapse.

M – It can be helpful to concentrate on the benefits your challenges have brought and if you want to keep going summon a support team and set a new timeframe.

Some Observations

  • Motivators do change with time along with our goals and needs
  • As we age, and our body starts to pack up, the need to keep fit and eat well becomes even more important if we want to maintain our independence and mobility.
  • The sooner we get started the easier life’s challenges become so don’t postpone happiness get cracking now!

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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