There’s a sign-up board at work for “The Target Loser Competition.” Adding Biggest in there is evidently a trade-mark no-no. The HR gal and I were chatting about it (mainly to ban me from adding my name—not that I was going to—due to my temporary state!) and she mentioned, “I just need to find my motivation again.”

We had to get back to what we were being paid to do after that, but motivation is now on my mind.

There are various factors that can motivate you to take charge of your health, but they fall into 2 categories: Internal and External (formally known as Intrinsic and Extrinsic).

Being externally motivated comes from outside oneself (money, 1st place, fitting into a certain size, weighing a certain amount). External rewards can be motivating for a short period of time, there is no doubt about it. And, there is nothing wrong with external motivation. The problem with external motivation is that it depends on internal factors, such as self-control (http://mmrg.pbworks.com/f/Ryan,+Deci+00.pdf).

Why can this be a problem?

If you are working towards seeing a certain number on the scale, and you plateau, you may very well throw in the towel, dropping your exercise routine or trashing your nutritional habits. If your motivation is to win a competition, you may get to race day and immediately be unable to catch up to the person in front of you; depending on your personality, this could either make you train harder or give up and never train for a race again. I just recently started Pintrest-ing, and I see a lot of “Fitspiration” “Thinspiration” and plain old “Inspiration” boards that people pin (okay, mainly that women pin), and they often include photos of models—both regular models and fitness models; it can be motivating to try to look like someone else, but what happens when it dawns on you that no matter how much work you put into it, you really do have big bones and you’ll never look lithe like Melissa Miller…or your metabolism is too fast and your budget too tight to eat and workout to become big and ripped like Arnold?

Internal motivation on the other hand seems to have a more lasting effect, particularly when it comes to health and fitness. Internal motivation comes from a desire to be healthy—whether than means working to avoid heart disease, achieving peace with oneself, or embracing the edge of your ability no matter what that may be.

Sometimes the two overlap. If you want to have the energy to chase around your children on the playground, is that an external factor or an internal factor? Are you doing it for your kids, or for you?

It very well could be both.

WHY are you pursuing your goals? WHAT is going to get you up off the couch? WHAT is going to get you to chose the whole-grain pasta with marinara sauce over the cheese-laden lasagna?

You may need a partner. You may need time alone. You may want to do it to increase your self-esteem. You may want to do it to look better in your jeans. You may need to enlist the help of a professional. You may want to compete. You may want to do what you can to avoid certain diseases or illnesses.

There is no right answer.

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