Friends, I strive for OlderBeast to be a “trusted adviser” resource for fitness, nutrition and the larger, not-just-physical concept of Wellness. With this goal, a lot of OlderBeast is about “what” (what workouts, what to eat or avoid), “why” (facts and logic behind recommendations) and “how” (tips and tricks to find motivation and get started, adopt something new, or refine).
But there’s a bigger, capital-letters, “WHY” underneath all this. All theoretical reasons and intellectual understanding aside, WHY do we actually get out of bed early on a cold morning and go for a run? Or squeeze out those last 5 push-ups? Or eat healthy today instead of waiting until tomorrow?
“WHY” is a question of underlying motivation, man. It’s the bedrock of OlderBeast resolve to “double down” on fitness, nutrition, and Wellness for the second half of life. We began discussing motivation in this earlier post.
To further help you maintain and grow motivation, let’s discuss three additional, powerful motivators: gratitude, respect, and obligation.
Real-life Example: Pleasanton, CA, February 2017
On a recent day, I struggled with motivation to get to the pool as planned. It was 45 degrees, rainy, and getting dark. This doesn’t matter once into the outdoor pool where I swim, but getting in and out isn’t fun. My inner “lazy man” started inventing reasons why “maybe I should take today off.”
I eventually overcame by visualizing how great I’d feel once done. Physically great, yes, but also psychologically from knowing I respected my workout routine and accomplished something.
Then, at the pool, something happened that was motivational at a whole different level. It affirmed my choice to swim that day, but also highlighted motivational themes to help with the next 1,000 motivational struggles in the years ahead.
Swimming in the lane next to me was a guy about my age who is physically disabled. He’d lost use of his legs. He used a “pool lift” chair to enter the water, and swimming itself seemed tough with no kicking at all. I flashed back to 30 minutes earlier when, for no real reason other than laziness or aversion to cold air, I’d almost skipped my swim.
Back in the locker room afterward, I felt tip-top. “I’m DONE,” I thought (and was really glad I’d motivated). Then I saw him near the lockers, slowly getting dressed, stretching uncomfortably forward from his wheelchair to reach clothes in his locker, having to lift up each leg by hand, working hard to get pants and socks on.
I was totally blown away by the will and perseverance this all took…not just to get to the pool and get into it…not just to swim when only half of your body is available to help…but even to then get dressed again afterward. I was “done,” but his effort continued.
And my own earlier wavering about getting to the pool seemed so weak and trivial.
Sources of Motivation: Gratitude & Respect
Reflecting on all this, two strong motivational feelings come to me: GRATITUDE and RESPECT.
It’s so easy to forget to be grateful for what most of us have: a body that works for getting around on two feet, for swimming, for lifting things. I realize it sounds kind of sappy and clichéd to say, but it’s true: this is a GIFT we should treasure.
And it’s a gift whose benefits we can improve and extend into the future, by being active and eating well. “Use it or lose it” comes to mind here.
Yeah, I’ve usually got some aches and pains. And I certainly feel the urge to sleep a bit more in the morning instead of hitting the bricks to work out sometimes (or to just relax after work, instead of working out). But these common demotivators are near-zero level, compared to all the reasons a person with physical disabilities could think “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” And yet, like the guy at the pool, people motivate and overcome.
I’m filled by immense respect for this, and it motivates me to overcome my own comparatively inconsequential daily hurdles.
One More Motivator: Obligation or Duty
I’ve reached a point I hope many of you guys have, too…or which you will (OlderBeast can help!). It’s one of intrinsic motivation, where I get immediate feelings of reward from working out and eating right. So I don’t have to rely only on long-term benefits as a more-theoretical motivator, or even the nearer-term “I’ll be closer to looking my best in 4-12 weeks” type of motivation.
But though this package of motivators (short-, mid- and long-term) is usually enough, I’m not immune to occasional motivation challenges. For those times, keeping these ideas of gratitude and respect top-of-mind is like having two more arrows in the motivation quiver.
When I combine all these reasons “WHY,” I get one other sensation: OBLIGATION (or DUTY if you prefer).
I have an obligation or duty to use what I’ve been given…to hand over to my future self the fittest body-and-soul I can nurture…to be there for my loved ones in the future…and to honor and respect the incredible striving of people with real challenges to overcome.
With all this as context, my fitness and health is about something bigger than just my current self, brother.
In a friendly-challenge type of way, I say you have this obligation, too. Think about it the next time you have trouble getting motivated.
“Oh, oh, what a night. Oh, what a garden of delight. Even now that sweet memory lingers. I was playing my guitar, lyin’ underneath the stars, just thankin’ the Lord for my fingers.” (Paul Simon, Duncan – click to listen)
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