Motivation plays a huge role in whether you succeed or fail at just about anything. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (Oct. 1998) defined motivation as an influence, a need, or a desire that promotes action. Taking action is the key word. Our ancestors were driven by survival instincts. They were motivated to find food and shelter, and to protect themselves from predators. It is a little different today. Life isn’t necessarily easier but our expectations certainly are. However, we still want to be assured that the actions that we take are relevant to our needs. Whether we want to down-size our lives, learn another language or adopt a healthier lifestyle, we are most apt to be motivated if we perceive our actions as relevant.
What motivates you to get out of bed each day? Are you motivated by that first cup of coffee in the morning, a four legged friend wanting a walk, or a student waiting for you to help him/her learn how to read? Let’s talk about what makes you do the many things that you do every day.
Personal relevance is the key. Whether you are thinking about an exercise program or learning how to self-administer insulin; you first have to identify the need and then come up with a plan of action. I’ve seen a lot of older people stop by to check out our exercise classes at the center, but only a handful stay and become regulars. Is it lack of motivation that keeps them from coming back? The need for action doesn’t seem to be strong enough to keep them coming back for more. Why did they change their minds?
There are a lot of reasons why older people don’t exercise. When we were younger exercise wasn’t fashionable. Men were brought up to think that exercise was a frivolous waste of time, and women who exercised were considered unladylike. It wasn’t until recently that we came to realize that exercise and independent living go hand in hand. We now know that a healthy lifestyle will help us maintain bone strength, promote balance and flexibility, and pave the way to lifelong independent living.
There are many reasons why you should start an exercise program. The most likely is that your physician said it was an either/or situation. For me it was when I noticed that my older siblings were starting to look frail. I was motivated to exercise because I didn’t want that to happen to me. Perhaps you had a similar experience, or perhaps it was the loss of some of your own physical capabilities. The journal article outlined four stages that you go through before making a commitment. First there is pre-contemplation (the exciting first thoughts), then contemplation (really thinking about it), then preparation (making a plan) and then finally the action. Even after all that, the chances of your actions becoming a commitment are up in the air. Motivation isn’t enough unless you actually put the action in to motion. Motivation is more than just a dream of what could be; it is taking action and making it a lifelong commitment.