18 Motivational Strategies to Help You Build a Better Body

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Motivational StrategiesMotivation.

The word alone can be intimidating.

We know it’s the key to taking action. It’s the steam that powers the train to success.

But how do you get it? More importantly, how do you maintain it? How do you keep it from disappearing, often leaving us overwhelmed with laziness and self-doubt?

Motivation is typically the bottle neck.

No matter what our abilities, talents, or skills allow for, we can only do that which we are motivated to do.

Without motivation we have nothing. We are nothing.

Nada.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve put together a list of 18 motivational strategies that I’ve used (and continue to use) to keep my motivational engines revving. Feel free to try them out.

Let’s dig in…

1. Have a Purpose

This is one of the primary things I teach in all of my training courses. Your purpose is your drive. It is directly correlated to your motivation and it will make you or break you on your journey. A goal without a purpose is not really a goal; it is a mere wish. A hope.

To figure out what your reason is, ask yourself:

Why am I really doing this?

You need to get to the core of this question. Figure out what the true reason is. It needs to be real. Personal. It needs to strike a chord on a deep-rooted emotional level that resonates with you and only you.

Whatever that reason is, write it down in big bold letters and put it up somewhere so you can see it at all times (you can use this template). Read it out loud to yourself whenever you see it. Let it sink it. Let it become a part of your subconscious.

Anytime you’re lacking the motivation, you’ll have something to remind you of why you’re doing this in the first place.

Powerful stuff.

1. Use Imagery

Images are very powerful. Sometimes more powerful than words.

Take a photo of something that you want to change. If it’s your body, take a picture of yourself and put it up somewhere so you can see it at all times (right beside your purpose). If it’s your lifestyle, put a picture of the habit you’re trying to break.

Having these photos visible will serve as a source of motivation when you feel like you’re falling back.

2. Find Your Tunes

Music can change moods. It can inspire and motivate like nothing else.

There are two ways to use music as a motivator.

The first is obvious – find tunes that are up tempo and full of energy. It’s rare to find a person who is inspired to train after listening to Bob Marley. Instead, you need music that goes after the adrenal glands.

The louder the music is and the more up-tempo the beat is, the more likely it is that your adrenals will be firing and your heightened senses will drive you to move.

The second way to use music as a motivator is to make it a trigger…

3. Find a Trigger

A trigger is a powerful motivator, but only if it is set up right.

Here’s an example of how to make and use a trigger…

Let’s say you’re trying to find a way to motivate yourself to go to the gym. Start by having a coffee every time right before you head out. Build a habit out of it. Coffee, gym. Coffee, gym. After a period of time, having coffee before you go to the gym will become routine, kind of like brushing your teeth before going to bed. It becomes a habit.

Now, on particular days when you’re lacking the motivation to go to the gym, all you need to do is activate your trigger.

Have a coffee.

As soon as you do, you’ll be more inclined to go to the gym right after because it’s a routine that you’re used to.

Triggers can be anything from activity-based cues, to visual cues or even certain types of music (told you!). Be creative and figure out how you can use triggers in your life to motivate yourself.

4. Use Imagery…Again

This time take photos of your food.

It has been said that taking photos of your food is more effective than keeping a food journal. A food journal requires you to log the foods you’ve eaten, often long after eating. Although it can work in certain situations (like this one), a food journal is ineffective because it creates awareness after the food has already been eaten.

It turns out that simply taking a picture of your food before you eat it will make you more aware – more conscious – of the choice you are making in real time – before the damage is done.

Snap photos of your food and keep them in your smartphone. And look at them before your next meal. This should help motivate you to make better food choices.

PS – 50% of the photos on my phone are of food :)

5. Find Stories that Inspire You

Stories of achievement are powerful motivators.

There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing about someone who has achieved what you are trying to achieve.

Find others who have done what you’ve done. Print out their stories and keep a collection of them so you can read them every time you need a spark of motivation. One good place to find good stories is in magazines. Subscribe to magazines in the niche that you’re interested in.

Leverage the power of stories to get your motivational engines going again.

6. Tell 3 People

You need a support system.

If you can’t motivate yourself, you can have others do it for you. Find three people who are closest to you and tell them about what you’re trying to do. Tell them what it is you’re trying to achieve. Instruct them to push you when you need to be pushed. Tell them to critique you and give you feedback when it needs to be given.

Your support system should keep you accountable at all times.

And give them the right to kick your ass if you slip up.

7. Leverage Loss Aversion

Loss aversion can be a very powerful motivator.

Loss aversion is a term that originates from economics and decision theory. It simply refers to people’s tendency to prefer avoiding loss over acquiring gain.

What this means is that, psychologically, you’re affected much more by losing a dollar than you are by gaining a dollar.

There have been many studies done on the topic of loss aversion, some of them finding that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

So how can you use this to your advantage?

Leverage the power of loss aversion.

Once you have your goal(s) in place, set up a system that would take something away from you (something important to you) if you didn’t stay on track with your goals or achieve them.

Your support system would be perfect for this as they can hold something as ransom until you achieve what you said you’re going to achieve!

8. Set up a Reward System

A reward system is exactly opposite to loss aversion, but it works on the same psychological level.

As humans, we’ve evolved into creatures of reward.

A lot of our actions are driven by what reward lies at the end of the path. If the reward is small (or God-forbid non-existent), we become less driven to actually take that path.

We can use this human trait to our advantage and set up a reward system of some kind.

Once you have your goals broken down into small bite-size chunks, set yourself rewards for every step you complete. Or set up a bigger reward for when you obtain the overall goal.

For example, if you stick to your goal of building a positive habit of doing something active every day for 30 days (like I did with the 30 day kettlebell swing challenge), get yourself that new suit or dress you’ve been eyeing.

Use rewards to your advantage and, if possible, use your support system to judge!

9. Have a Cup of Coffee

Although I’m not a huge fan on stimulants, coffee is one of my go-to motivational tools.

Any time I’m in need of an energy boost, I have a cup of black coffee (no sugar, cream, or milk). The caffeine within the coffee stimulates the adrenal glands and your senses are heightened (kind of like what music does). The rush of adrenaline through the body might give you just the push you need to get going.

10. Stay Organized

It’s very difficult to get motivated when you don’t know exactly what you need to be doing.

Make a list.

A list should outline your tasks, workouts, or steps of your journey and will help you stay more focused.

Write your workouts out. Don’t go into the gym or head to the track if you don’t know what you’re going to be doing (at least roughly). Having your training written out on paper will help you stay on track and will allow you to be more effective.

Use organization as a motivating tool.

11. Eliminate Negativity

Constantly surround yourself with positive energy.

Energy is contagious. If you surround yourself with people who are constantly giving off negative energy – people who are constantly complaining, being pessimistic or telling you that you can’t achieve something – you will become one of them.

By understanding this principle, the solution should be obvious.

Surround yourself with positive people and allow the consistent flow of positive energy around you to boost your mood and your confidence. This alone will motivate you like nothing else.

On the same topic, eliminate negative thoughts. Find ways to block them out. There’s nothing that can kill motivation faster than self-doubt and lack of self confidence.

12. Set up the Right Environment

Your immediate surrounding environment is very important (like I mentioned here).

If your environment isn’t set up correctly, you’ll find it very difficult to get motivated to take positive actions.

For example, if your fridge and pantry are loaded with carb-heavy, highly-processed, and nutritionally-depleted foods, then these are the foods you’re constantly going to be eating. If they’re in front of you, you’ll be driven to eat them.

The same thing applies to training.

If your gym bag hasn’t seen the light of day in months, what are the odds that you’re actually going to pull it out, clean it, and use it for what it’s meant to be used? Probably very slim.

But if you set up the right environment for yourself, you can create a very motivating tool. Stock your house with healthy foods. Keep your gym stuff clean and always in sight.

And see how motivation kicks into overdrive.

13. Step Outside your Comfort Zone

I’ve talked a lot about the idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone in the past.

You should never let your comfort zone define you. If you choose to never explore beyond the boundaries of your comfort, you’ll lose out on a lot of opportunities to grow and become better.

But what makes stepping outside of your comfort zone such a motivating thing is that it’s exciting.

It activates the adrenals.

When you step out of your comfort zone and take some risks, you never know what to expect. You don’t know what will happen. This is what breeds excitement.

And excitement and motivation are like two birds of a feather.

14. Set Small, Specifically-Timed Goals

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” -William Faulkner

If you’re lacking motivation to achieve your goal, maybe your goal is too big.

When you break up your goals into small easily-attainable chunks, you’ll be more motivated to do them. When you complete a task, you’re even more motivated to do the next one and this turns into a very effective motivational cycle. We are motivated by results.

It initiates the pleasurable strike-things-off-the-list feeling.

Same applies with your workouts.

If you’re not feeling motivated to move, maybe your workouts are too long or too strenuous. Cut them down in time or intensity. Break them up. You’ll be more motivated to do a 10 minute sprint workout than you will a 60 minute run on the treadmill.

Instead of setting one big goal, set up small, easily attainable check points that you then aim for. And avoid looking at the big picture.

15. Embrace Failure

I’m not a believer in perfection.

I like the 80/20 rule.

If you’re avoiding mistakes, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re holding yourself back from improvement.

Making mistakes is the only way to excel. It’s all part of the journey.

It’s all about shifting your mindset.

Instead of looking at mistakes as being something negative, I want you to look at them from a more positive light. Embrace mistakes. Use them as stepping stones. Every time you make a mistake, consider yourself a step closer to your desired outcome.

The faster and more often you fail, the quicker you will get to where you want to be.

Shifting your mindset in this manner and remembering that each mistake you make and every failure your experience is taking you closer to your desired outcome, you’ll be much more motivated to keep going.

At the end of the day, inaction is the only true form of failure

16. End Procrastination

Procrastination kills motivation.

The more you wait, the less likely you’ll end up doing anything.

If you are constantly putting things off, you’ll lose the motivation to do the things that are most important.

Take action immediately. Your steps don’t have to be perfectly laid out, as long as you have a rough outline of the path that you’ll be taking you’ll have more than enough to get started.

The idea of correcting things as you go is very exciting and this growth process is an excellent way to sustain motivation.

Stop putting things off and get started immediately.

17. Zig Zag

Change is a very effective tool for countering lack of motivation.

When we stick to one routine for a period of time, we get bored of it. Our bodies get bored of it. And boredom is motivation’s kryptonite. When we’re bored we lack the motivation to do anything.

So it’s important that we attack the root source.

Figure out what it is that’s causing the boredom and change it. Add something new to your training routine. Change the scenery. Slow down or speed up the pace.

Do something different.

Zig zagging is a powerful tool for boosting motivation when things are starting to plateau and stagnate.

18. Motivation is Dynamic so pay Attention

There is something important you need to understand about motivation.

It’s dynamic.

Your motivation meter is an action-packed roller coaster ride. It’s constantly going up and down.

Some days you’ll have tons of it and other days you’ll feel like you’re fully depleted.

What you need to do is pay attention.

Figure out what factors are driving you to be motivated. On a day where you’re extremely motivated, take a step back and figure out what it is that brought those levels up. Is it something you heard? Something you read? Something you saw? Something you ate or drank?

Do the same for the days when you’re lacking motivation. Figure out what it is that brought those levels so low.

Once you start paying attention, you’ll begin to understand what it is that motivates you best.

Then simply use those principles to keep your motivation levels up!

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There you have 18 of my favorite motivational strategies.

Feel free to use whichever one you think will work for you. If in doubt, just test them all. See what works best. We’re all wired a little differently and so different things get us going.

If you have a second, please share your favorite motivational strategy in the comments below. Or, if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them!

If you enjoyed this post, please share it!

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Comments

  1. Hey Srdjan. You have 16 listed twice and you missed #14..

    Great article. There are a couple helpful tips I didn’t even think of before. The triggers are a great idea. Unfortunatelly I have some bad triggers that I need to change.

    • Ooops thanks Darren – I got that fixed.

      Triggers can go either way. You can have good ones and bad ones. But you can also create new good ones to eliminate bad existing ones.

  2. Jeff Blackwell says:

    Excellent post Serge! For me I think it would be most helpful to have a partner. Someone who worked out on thier own or with you. You can talk and compare notes and encourage each other. Someone to push me everyday. The best motivation to start with is simply looking in the mirror and asking yourself if that’s what you want to look like. For me I hate how I look and I hate negative comments from family and friends as to how I look. So my motivation is HATE. I will make positive change.

    • Hey Jeff – having a partner who is on the same journey as you are can be immensely powerful and incredibly motivating. That’s a really good one.

      Negativity is one of those things that can either bring you up or break you down, depending on the type of person you are. Some people get really de-motivated when they hear negative comments being made about them or they allow negative thoughts to come into their head. Others, like yourself, use that as a source of motivation.

      Keep it up Jeff!

  3. Great Tips!

    I have found that keeping my adrenaline high with great music and green tea/coffee is the key to giving me a killer workout.

    I know you said you are against stimulants- but do you use any pre workout supplements?

    • Hey Troy, I don’t any pre-workout supplements. The closest thing I’ve gotten to a pre-workout supplement is taking creatine before a training session (but that’s not your typical pre-workout supplement).

      If I need something to get me going before a workout, it’s usually a coffee!

      I’ll have to try the green tea route as well.

      • If you are looking for the “best” kind of green tea – with the highest egcg antioxidant and caffeine try Matcha Green Tea! I have found it to work better than coffee and it gives me much better focus.

  4. There’s a website that let’s you enter into contracts and pay if you don’t achieve your goals :P
    http://www.stickk.com/tour.php

  5. Great article, lots of good advice. I think the best motivational strategies you listed are have a purpose, inspiring stories, tell 3 people, loss aversion and the rewards system. I have found that blogging about what I do and what my goals are is pretty helpful in staying motivated too.

    • That’s a good point Wayne – blogging is a good strategy for keeping yourself motivated and staying accountable. If blogging isn’t your thing, I think keeping a daily or weekly journal with notes about what you ate, how you trained and how those things affected your energy levels would be another awesome motivational (and feedback) strategy.

  6. I love love love no 18, and I think it’s one aspect that is almost always either ignored or missed by people, experts and lay people alike.

    Your ability to experience and create motivation is a skill and one that implies ups and downs. The process of getting better at it is like a journey and should be viewed as such.

    I’d like to propose a no19 as well; ‘take control of your brain’.
    But then I’m biased, as I think this is a core skill we should all have. I’ve written about it here: http://superbootcamps.co.uk/2011/using-your-mind/how-your-brain-works-nlp-users-manual-for-the-brain/

    I hope this is of some use to you or your readers!

    Keep up the good work,
    george

  7. Srdjan,

    This is a great list. I believe finding a purpose is the most important because it drives action. Unfortunately many people require something bad happening in order to find that purpose.

    Those who are proactive are ahead of the curve. My purpose is to constantly better myself at the things I care about and a big one of those things is my health and fitness.

    Alykhan

    • That’s a good point Alykhan – it does seem like people need to have their backs against the wall before they take action. Maybe it’s just in our nature.

      What’s your advice on being proactive and staying ahead of the curve? How do you accomplish that?

      • I tend to think more long-term than most people I feel. It’s really difficult to give advice on how to get motivated and find a purpose because that’s something that is different for everyone and almost always has to come from within.

        One thing that I can think of that should motivate most everyone is their loved ones. If you aren’t willing to do it for yourself, think about them and how much better off they’d be if you are fit and healthy. Whether you have your own family, a spouse, significant other, parents, or siblings, being at the top of your game in terms of your own health and well-being means you have more time, energy, and knowledge to devote to them and help them out.

        Likewise, you become less of a burden to them. I feel really fortunate that my parents are still extremely fit and healthy. They eat well, exercise regularly, and are always reading up on stuff constantly looking to better their health. It’s just one less thing I need to stress about and I am very thankful for that.

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