Not one day. Day one. How to find your motivation.
I was about to start this post off with the words, "As a trainer," but I decided to take that back and I'll explain why later.
As a FITNESS ENTHUSIAST for about 14 years since I joined the military, I get asked a lot of questions pertaining to the health and wellness aspects and habits of my daily life. "What's your weekly training program like? What do you do for your diet and supplementation? I even get asked interesting questions such as "How much do you sleep? What do you think of this cleanse? Or that new diet trend? Do you eat cheat meals? Were you always active? How much do you weigh?"
But the question I get asked most is,
"Where do you find the motivation to exercise and train as much as you do?”
Here's a specific example to set this into context. One of my best friends, Jason--who was also a groomsman at my wedding-- is a nurse in LA. When he's not contributing to bettering the healthcare of people in need, he's also a very talented photographer, skateboarder, an avid reader, and has traveled all around the world. Maybe once a month, I get a call from him pushing for us to go to Thailand, Europe, or Burning Man together(Maybe this year, Jase.). But most importantly to the topic at hand, a few years ago he also CRUSHED the Chicago Marathon while launching/organizing a Nike-affiliated Urban running group in Chicago (Mission I'MPOSSIBLE) and as we used to play city-league basketball together, he was--and probably still is--a solid point guard.
Now I describe Jason with all of his passions and talents so I can help you picture the very active, social, intelligent—and highly motivated—individual that he is. In many of his own respects, He's A LOT more motivated than i am.
So funny to say--Especially as Jason, whether he knows it or not, has been a big inspiration to who I am and all I do today-- I get a text from him one day asking me said question in response to some of my Instagram posts pertaining to my Ironman Training. "Where do you find the motivation to train?" Along with an explanation of how he can't find the desire and time to workout even though deep down he knows he should. Usually, when asked these types of questions, I go on this attempt at an overly inspirational tangent about how YOU CAN DO IT AND THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE AND FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.
But instead, I simply said, "I think you already know the answer to that question." And left it at that.
His response was simply along the lines of, "Touche."
Being said, not everyone does know the answer to this but do ask the question very often. And regardless of fitness level and past experience, the question is always followed up with some story and list of reasons justifying why they haven't made fitness a priority in their life. Most reasons alluding to a lack of time. Just like Jason explains, they're busy at work. Significant others. Kids. Dogs. Friends. Their schedule is too tight. Which is all fine, of course! But to say that you're controlled by your scarcity of time while knowing you want to do something that would make you happy but don't do it is where we start to unearth the problem of "lacking motivation." And knowing we have the potential to be so much more but not live into the strongest versions of ourselves can be a downward spiral of not taking any action at all.
I have to recall two ideas I can't take credit for but are two very profound things when it comes to motivation and getting things done. The first, while working as the marketing manager for a personal development company that trained people in Social and Emotional Intelligence, I remember hearing how excuses can always be challenged by what can be coined as "The Million Dollar Test." Have you ever been late for a meeting or an appointment and you justified your delay by something like traffic or some perceived uncontrollable situation hindering you from being on time? Have you ever had a chore to do or an errand to run that you couldn't get to because there was just so many things going on in the day? Did you ever have dinner plans with friends but right when your rendezvous time is closing in, you tell yourself your day was just too long and theres no way you have the energy to make it out to see anyone... So you cancel?
Well if someone were to have given you a million dollars to be there at that meeting before it started, or cross off that item on your to-do-list, or be somewhere as you promised, what would you have done?
If it were me, and I had to be at a meeting, I would have been there the day before camping out. I would have done everything in my power to make sure I was there without question or obstacle. So when someone says, " I can't make it to the gym because I'm so busy," If I were to offer you a million dollars to be at the gym every single day this week, what would you do- what would you rearrange in your life- to make that happen? Because I'm sure all of a sudden your schedule seems a little bit more flexible, doesn't it? And with a million dollars at stake, traffic seems to be less of a problem.
But now the question is, what is your health and well being worth to you? What's it going to take for you to look at your day as something you can control and not fall victim to life's stressful but manageable tasks? Because no one is here offering you a million dollars to get it done. But at least, lets admit that we have more options than we want to recognize and we don't have to fall into the drama of our lives. Lets admit its not that we don't have the resources or capabilities, its that even with the freedom to choose to do, WE CHOOSE NOT TO. Our motivation is to prioritize other things in our life over what we'd like to do because we feel we have to and we only have so much time in the day. But what if you truly did want to prioritize your health? Which brings me to the second idea which really resonated with me when I heard it while recently attending church:
"What you put first in your life puts everything else into perspective."
It only SEEMS right that we have to put our work first. Or our family first. Or our friends. Or significant others. Or simply--just others--that we feel we have to serve. Or maybe--things--we have to serve like our money or our bills. Of course-these people and things are important. But when we look at our lives as subject to the demands of everything else, of course our health will have to take a back seat. But if we put our health first--ourselves first-- then we can begin to look at our family, our work, our social life, our education and any obligations of our life through a different lens. The lens being, how does the quality of my health and well being affect how I take on, handle, and perform in every aspect of my life? Both physically and emotionally? How can a better understanding of my body and experiencing what it is capable of affect my experience of everything around me? Inversely- how does the way I currently live my life and the stress that comes with it affect my body and how I feel about it? Especially when i choose not to take care of it as much as I should?
I'm not saying your job or your family isn't important. But taking care of your health first will better help you take care of everything else and EVERYONE else that needs you.
I think we get caught up in the social media posts of other people doing these amazing things in their lives and we sit there behind our screens and think, "What am I doing with my life? How come I'm not there yet? I haven't even started and this person has been doing this for a while, so how could I ever do what they are doing? It must be a lot of work." And the self beat up and getting lost in what other people are doing rather than focusing on our own goals causes this continuation of not doing anything at all. We feel lost because we're not achieving these great things others are doing and we think, "How can I ever do that? Honestly, I'm a culprit and victim on both ends of this.
Last year I completed my first Ironman, two half Ironmans, the Chicago marathon, and a bunch of other races. All while trying to live a normal working life of a trainer, husband, friend, and dog dad. I posted about all these great things I accomplished- crossing the finish line, getting faster, big wins, waking up at 4am to train, finishing 8 hour training days, etc. All these pictures and videos to show how motivated I am. But what i didn't post was all the times I said, "I don't feel like doing this today" and didn't do anything at all. Or the times where I got too tired halfway and just stopped. Or the times I cried and wanted to quit because I couldn't come back from an injury but just kept pushing it and had to take Ubers to get home during long runs. I didn't post the times when I didn't hit my mileage quota on bike rides, when I made bad food choices, all the days I woke up and just wanted to screw it all because I didn't think I had it in me to compete. It got pretty ugly sometimes. Health and fitness isn't as beautiful and glorious as we make it to seem. And half the time I'm not even motivated.
But it's not about motivation. It's about commitment. And I'm committed to that very thing that I put first into my life that puts everything into perspective: Living a healthy, challenging, and purposeful life. A life where I push myself to do things I've never done before and be the strongest version of myself to my wife, family, friends, and community of everyone that I serve. And so when i commit, I get rid of my excuses, I push through those days where I don't want to do anything at all, and come back stronger from those days I quit so i can learn to persevere through pain and self doubt. When you're committed, you set systems in your day and get the support you need to ensure your workouts and good nutrition are just a normal thing you HAVE TO HAVE IN YOUR DAY or else its incomplete. When you're committed, you do the work even when motivation is lacking because on the other end of the struggle, THAT is where you find motivation-or call it inspiration- or just call it happiness. Call it whatever you might, but it's what you find only when you get there... and never when you don't decide to make that choice. And that very choice--to know when everything is hard, when everything is against you, that even though you're so busy, and you're scared of what you don't know what will happen- regardless of all of that, you still made it. That is where you find motivation. You find motivation in yourself and your choices and thats what helps you keep going. So whatever it might be- getting to the gym, running your first race, or even just getting your nutrition locked in- don't worry about motivation. Don't live in the video that plays in your head about how hard it might be. Or the stories you tell yourself about how you're not ready yet. Forget all that.
Sometimes we're never ready. We just DO things. And keep doing them. Simple as that. Stop telling yourself "One day...." and just get started on day: one.
Like I said, I was about to start this story post by saying, "As A trainer," but in truth, as a trainer, I'm surrounded by motivated people driven by their commitment. They're there in that gym every single day for whatever they are committed to. Whatever it might be. Actually, they get there and sometimes they aren't even motivated at all. But at the end of the day, they still made it through. And more often than not, they feel better to have put in the work. So many amazing stories of people doing things they never thought they could--from losing 50 pounds, crossing their first finish line, being a positive influence on the people around them, or even just feeling better about who they see when they look in the mirror when they wake up. I have lost count how many times at the end of a workout, someone has said to me, "I didn't even want to come today. But I did it!" They don't have to tell me that story. But they do anyway. Cause it's triumphant. It's a win they want to claim for themselves. It's the process of changing neural programming that has historically held them back from getting to the gym. Cause they know they have to be. They're trying all they can to make it a part of who they are and whoever they want to become. Commitment, dedication, and grit to stay with it, and the openness to keep learning. When you learn more about your body, yourself and what you're truly capable of, thats where you'll find motivation. Maybe I'm all wrong... but i do know you wont find your motivation by asking questions.
I also said I'm a victim of my own self doubt and watching other people grow while wondering, "How can i do that?" And it pertains to writing and maintaining a blog. If you really know me or have known me since I was young, you would know I love to write and create things. Whether writing, photos, videos, art, dance, or theatre, creating things and communicating ideas to get people thinking about themselves and their own place in the world has always been a big passion of mine. But over the years I got caught up with work and training and doing so many things (see- stories!) that writing took a back seat. But I would see all my peers constantly creating great content and inspiring their own communities that I would say "how can I do that? I'm starting from nothing and that's a whole lot of work to keep going. How do they find the time and motivation (haha) to do that?" So for years of starting a blog, getting it going, closing it, and restarting, I never stayed consistent. All while having this nagging urge to write.
But If I continue to commit to that thing I put first: Living a healthy, challenging, and purposeful life... To be the strongest version of myself filling my days with my passions and connecting with people I want to serve... no matter how challenging it might be to fit it in my day...
Well, here we are, aren't we?
Please keep following my blog as I continue to try and help people live better lives and try to be a better trainer and human being.
All love and happy training,