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Motivation for Self-care

Because most of you are searching for ways to become and stay motivated when it comes to eating, exercise and self-care, it’s important to understand what motivates people, in general, and you, in particular. Moreover, it’s crucial to recognize ways you’ve been trying to motivate yourself that have been proven not to work long term, such as focusing on weight loss and approval-seeking. What works? Read on.

The following theories and tips come from an interview (Talk of the Nation, The Art and Science of Motivation, NPR) with two experts on motivation: Steven Reis, author of WHO AM I—THE 16 BASIC DESIRES THAT MOTIVATE OUR ACTIONS AND DETERMINE OUR PERSONALITIES and Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE—THE SURPRISING TRUTH ABOUT WHAT MOTIVATES US.

Dr. Reis defines motivation as “the assertion of your values” and strongly encourages us to surround ourselves with people who are supportive of them. Because we all prioritize values differently, we each must find the ones which will support our individual beliefs and keep us moving forward. He also points out that “the key to understanding is that intrinsic motivation is not just what we want, it’s how much we want it.” Do you want to take care of yourself above all else, enough to actually do it? If not, you probably won’t. If you’re ambivalent about what you deserve, you will not stick with self-care.

Daniel Pink says that “one of our misconceptions about motivation is that we think that if we simply calibrate rewards and calibrate punishments in a precise way, people will do what you want them to do, what you expect them to do. And that’s just fundamentally not true.” He sees successful motivation as stemming from a sense of purpose or mission, not from “‘if-then’ motivators. If you do this, then you get that.” He says that these “controlling contingent motivators” are less effective for complex than for simple tasks. Pink describes three kinds of motivational drives: universal biological (hunger, thirst, etc.); universal for rewards and to avoid punishment; and wanting to do things because they’re interesting, noting that “We do things because we like doing them… because we get better at them… because it’s the right thing to do.”

What’s your motivation for eating well and taking care of your body? Does it jive with what these experts say? If not, research says you’re setting yourself up for failure. To achieve success, consider how you can find motivation that is consistent with your values and your drives.