Home It's All Mental Is The Idea of Motivation Merely A Myth?

Is The Idea of Motivation Merely A Myth?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’ve written about motivation before. I know I have. I’ve written about being “motivated” into shrinking down to fit into a dress. I’ve written about experiences that have compelled me to get my act together – I know I have – but I can’t help but wonder.

Merriam-Webster defines motivation as:

Main Entry: mo·ti·va·tion
Pronunciation: \ˌmō-tə-ˈvā-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 1873

1 a : the act or process of motivating b : the condition of being motivated
2 : a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : incentive, drive

“A positive, motivating force within your life,” right? I guess.

I’m not going to sugar coat this at all. The idea of being “motivated” into some giant whirlwind of fitness… does not work for everyone. Some women are raised in such a vacuum of “focus on being skinny!!!!111!1” that they fall into fitness. Some women are truly raised in such a healthy environment, that proper nutrition and fitness is all they know… and they trust their upbringing enough to not stray too far away from that. Some women can identify that one catalyst in their lives that makes them say “Enough is enough!” and get down to business.

And then… there are women like me. Overweight for all of their adult lives, had all the health risks and reasons to compel me to do what I needed to get on top of my health, and just… couldn’t do it. I don’t know if it was a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, laziness or flat out “I’m-too-fine-to-focus-on-losing-this-booty”ness… but whatever it was, it wasn’t compelling me to make any changes.

It wasn’t until I had a very heartfelt conversation with the owner of the gym I eventually joined – a conversation about me – that I realized I had every reason in the world to compel me to lose weight and live my healthiest life.

I think about every lull I’ve experienced in my own journey. That point where you slow down and start getting bored, start feeling blah, whatever it may be. “I’m waiting for my muuuuuuuse….. I need to be inspiiiired…. I need motivaaationnn….” as I ate some stuff I had no business eating. I was looking for something outside of myself to solve a problem that could only be solved by looking inside of myself. I wanted something other than me to have the responsibility of compelling me to do what I needed to do for me.

That’s stupid.

I wanted something to inspire me. Something other than me to tell me what I needed to do for me. I didn’t want the responsibility of telling myself to just pick my behind up off the couch and go, for some reason, as if that would’ve been too much ownership of the situation. I needed to wait on my epiphany. I needed to wait. And while waiting, I was doing nothing. Wasting time. Doing what I knew I shouldn’t be doing… while I waited on the thing that would come tell me to do what I knew I should be doing.

Doesn’t that sound silly?

At the point where I knew I needed to eat better, knew I needed to get in my daily activity… waiting for something to compel me to do right by myself is foolish. If you know you need to do it, no matter how thin or overweight you may be, why shortchange yourself? It’s almost like giving yourself an intentional break with the excuse of waiting on inspiration to behave properly.

I have inspirations. My pole intructor? She’s my inspiration to be stronger. Giada DeLaurentis (of Food Network fame) is my food inspiration. Seriously… that woman cooks her behind off and manages to keep her shape. Deion Sanders’ wife, Pilar? She’s my fit inspiration. Her body is incredible, and she’s had like 40 kids. (More like 3, but good grief. Same difference.) No one can make me get up but me.

No person or thing is more compelling than my health. Nothing – no strength, food or figure – is more important than ensuring that I’m around for as long as possible. I put myself first like that. I am my motivation. I own it.

It’s like a change in language is in order. Something else shouldn’t make you act right. YOU make you act right. Those types of women that I mentioned before? Those women were inspired. An outside source inspires you. Preservation of one’s body and one’s health is the motivation. Always. To me, that’s the most important source of motivation – the most compelling reason to live healthily – that there is.

What do you think? Am I off base here? Is there a difference between motivation and inspiration? Is it just word play and semantics? Let’s hear it!

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Tam July 22, 2010 - 10:54 AM

I LOVE this blog!! I stumbled across it on facebook, a friend “Liked” the page so it showed up in their newsfeed so I clicked on it and fell in LOVE!! I have been trying to shed weight gained over a period of about 4 years. I do have a weight goal in mind but am more concerned about how I LOOK and FEEL in my clothing as well as my overall health. I have lost about 25 lbs since I started this journey in January 2010. It is toats refreshing to get advice from someone who “looks like me” because I do believe people have different body types and genetic makeups. I have FINALLY gotten over the devastation of sweating out/messing up my hair working out so there’s no stopping me now!! My next goal is working on cooking (learning how to) and eating healthy. Thank you so much for you MOTIVATION!!

Erika July 22, 2010 - 4:30 PM

Girl, only YOU can motivate you to do this! I’m just here to talk a little bit and look cute. LOLOL Thank YOU!

Evelyn July 22, 2010 - 11:00 AM

*praise breaking all over office* This is SO TRUE…

I think I may have said this on another post, but I’ve just come to realize that it’s about choices. When I started this journey I had no inspiration or reason to feel motivated at all. I was in such poor health that EVERYTHING exercise wise was extremely painful, I was suffering emotionally and physically and I had no desire to eat healthy food… so it was truly a one day at a time thing.

29 pounds later, NOW the motivation is kicking in (thank GOD), but for me it didn’t start there.

Erika July 22, 2010 - 4:32 PM

I love it! Learning the hard way, but learning nonetheless! We have all the reason in the world to be motivated, we just have to recognize it within ourselves. 🙂

cjbrownsc July 22, 2010 - 11:13 AM

Hi Erika!
I think that something or someone that inspires you can also motivate you, but the heart of motivation has to come from within. When I’m sore from working out and know I need to get my booty out of bed the next morning and work out again, the last thing I’m thinking about is being inspired – that’s where my motivation has got to kick in.
I do have “body she-roes” that I love to look at in pictures, but I know that most of them have not had weight issues in their past. I’m more inspired by women like yourself who started where I am now, and have been successful in making lifestyle changes and have achieved phenomenal results.

Erika July 22, 2010 - 4:48 PM

Aw!! *tear drop*

You’re awesome. 🙂

I understand what you mean. I think the key part of motivation is the element that compels you to move… and nothing is (or should be) more compelling than our own personal health! No booty, no dress, no bikini (and yes, I’m talking to myself with that one!) can make you move. We have to do that for ourselves! 🙂

cyndi July 22, 2010 - 1:20 PM

OMG, Ericka get out of my head this was the topic I was wanting to talked about, I just stared on the new found path to eating right,but I went to work out and realized how out of shape I was Icouldnt do more then 15min and begain to cry wondering how did I let this get so far out of control yes I could blame on an illness or lazy a combo of both but I saw it, and said Tommorrow, over and over again, Glad you spoke loudly about this, motovation is always good but in the end it has to be a sucess story for your self I will try again tommorrow 15 more mins (crying now) cause I have to, for me cause I have to be dependent on me and I cant if im dead.I read your post daily they come to my inbox via yahoo and facebook but today was all about me.Yes I have to have a realist goal and mark them off as I go but the sigh I had this morning was anothe excuse. This just put a peroid at the end my why me statment. Thanks, E

Erika July 22, 2010 - 5:03 PM

Aw Cyndi, don’t cry… sounds like right there, you just found your motivation. Just remember that “how did I let it get this far out of control?” moment, and vow to yourself to never let it get back there!

Ladi Ohm July 22, 2010 - 1:48 PM

I personally feel that motivation has to be an internal drive… I do have a fitness inspiration (mine is fitness model Alicia Marie)… but gazing at pictures of her will not get me to the gym. What motivates me to eat right… even if it means bringing a salad to work when I know we’re getting free pizza in the office… and what motivates me to head to the gym… even on Saturday morning when I KNOW my ‘do is fresh to death… is my health. My mom has diabetes, and various cancers run in my family… I don’t want to go down that path and 30lbs ago, that is exactly where I was headed. The desire to be and stay healthy keeps me out of drive-thrus and off the couch. I’m only 10lbs from my goal weight, and I’m motivated to get there!

BTW… truth be told… if I just wanted to look like Alicia Marie, I could just get surgery, but I want to feel as great as she looks too!

Erika July 22, 2010 - 5:04 PM

I heard that! If anything, staring at Pilar doesn’t do anything but piss me off! LMAO!

Sarah July 22, 2010 - 2:41 PM

First, thanks for this blog. I found it about a month ago, and it’s been one of my daily reads while on this new fitness journey. It helps me to see that I’m not alone in this.

For me, the idea of motivation comes down to a simple idea gleaned from my Buddhist upbringing: cause and effect. In order to have the effect I desire manifest itself (healthier mind, body, and spirit), I have to make the right cause, and make it consistently. And, for me it has to be in a mercenary way (a.k.a. ruthless, no self-compromise, no excuses).

So, when I’ve had a long day, and I’m tired on the couch, and just want to stay there for the night, I tell myself that I have to “make that cause” (do my workout, take an extra 30 minutes to make my ginormous lunch salad, etc.).

If I don’t make that internal push to make that cause for myself, no one else, regardless of how powerful, well-intentioned, or thoughtful s/he is, can do it for me.

Chelle Bell July 22, 2010 - 2:42 PM

I think you hit it on the nose! Very well said.

Crystal July 22, 2010 - 6:20 PM

I think it starts with some form of inspiration and is maintained via internal and external motivation. And even if it is only hype, I feel good when I’m inspired by someone’s progress. That gives me an extra push sometimes and I make a choice to use it as motivation. You’re site is a resource. So much Info here. You’re an inspiration and a lot of things u write about motivate others to either learn more about it, or challenge themselves to get up and do something.

Jasmine July 22, 2010 - 10:20 PM

Well written! I’d also like to add that motivation changes. When I first started I wanted to lose weight and be able to jog a 12 min mile , then it became being strong enough to handle martial arts. I’d also like to add that your motivation doesn’t have be grand at first. Whatever gets you off the couch, use it until you find something else. I was never motivated (in the beginning) to lose weight for health reasons because at every yearly check up, I was internally healthy,even though I was overweight by 100lbs. After I lost 40 lbs, I realized that I did myself a huge favor by getting healthy before I became unhealthy. And that added to my motivation.

Teri July 25, 2010 - 9:02 AM

Thank you for this post. I realized awhile ago that I can be my best supporter or my worst enemy, and usually I alternate between the two. I’ve been working out with a team of women since February and have “only” lost about 20 pounds. Some of my team mates have lost considerably more and while I am genuinely happy for them, I can get so down because I’m not “there” yet. Now, I have to also add that I have lost at least 10% of my original body fat percentage, am no longer shopping in the “Women’s” department and recently bought a cute pair of Seven jean capris – and I look good in them! My challenge is to continue to motivate myself by focusing on what I’ve accomplished, not just on what is in front of me. I appreciate your website and blog posts because it is so real. Thank you for caring for all of us on this journey and for everything you do.

Nannette Wade September 30, 2010 - 9:24 AM

Good article. I’ve wasted a lot of years looking for the next greatest discovery that would allow me to sit on my butt, eat all I want and lose weight and look great. Looking inside will get me going in the right direction because I need to discover why I hated myself so much I gained over 150 pounds. My knees hurt, my ankles are swollen and I want to be healthy and sexy.

Debbie Estelle January 19, 2011 - 3:07 PM

I think inspiration and action go hand in hand. We are usually ‘inspired’ AFTER we have already made up our minds to do something…

I feel an inspiration is similar to being an ‘example’. It’s not that we NEED to be told to take ownership for ourselves… but that in our humanity sometimes we get weak, fall, fail or are just plain tired. Looking around to SEE an ‘example’ of someone (or something) that you want to accomplish serves as a REMINDER of the journey you’re walking.

My believe is we all NEED muses… inspiration… examples… not to teach us how to live but to REMIND us how we should be living. Energy is a powerful force. That is why there is so much talk about who we spend the bulk of our time around. When you are able to identify with someone who has similar goals (or even better who has acheived them) it sparks something in you to keep going.

I think God uses that! It’s a good thing. Sometimes if we are seditary too long… well we’ve gotta push (even without FEELING inspired) but we are still reminded of the examples that may have added as the boost for us to start in the first place.

Nicole J. Butler June 26, 2011 - 5:42 PM

I think it is semantic. Whether using the word “motivation” or “inspiration” (both of which can come from internal or external factors) the internal torch has to be fired up in order to make the engine go. Basically, motivation/ inspiration is the spark, and internal commitment is the furnace.

LaDonna July 7, 2011 - 1:09 PM

Interesting. I’m dealing with this motivation issue. With all the information, with all the tools one would neeed, fitness plans and workout clothing. Yet and still me sedentary days and bad meal days outweigh the good ones. I don’t mind exercising. I hate eating right. Its bland, its boring, its of no feel good value. Its like going off of drugs I’d assume. Its the hardest thing I’ve ever tried and the one thing I keep failing to accomplish. And since exercise is 20%, if my diet is a wreck what’s the point.

I clicked on this hoping to be, inspired. I wasn’t. Read more of the same. Its in you. You have to do it. Your health, better you. And I’m still not motivated or driven to do better. All the good advice in the world isn’t going to do me any good when I can’t get past the food habits. Something I think is more than habitual. Its…addiction…to sugar, salt, eating out.

People talk about getting over it like it just comes overnight. It doesn’t. I know. I’ve tried and failed…so now what. What’s the motivation to eat a carrot stick, celery and water when the body, like an addict’s, is screaming, begging and pushing to eat/drink sugar, salt and so on. What suggestions are there for the drive to combat that?

Eva October 21, 2013 - 9:55 AM

As an addict, I have to respond to this. I have given up everything, cigarettes, liquor, drugs. The hardest to give up was cigarettes. I thought I would commit homicide, seriously; I wanted to KILL everybody. But what I also knew was “this too shall pass.” Feelings are real but they don’t last, good and bad feelings don’t last.

I was a mess for months, but one day, the fog cleared, that was 24 years ago and I haven’t smoked since. Don’t beat yourself up, take it a day/hour/minute/second at a time.

Amanda July 25, 2011 - 5:09 PM

Reading blogs like this is helpful, especially if I feel like running into the kitchen and making myself some buttered toast > _ > And (in SMALL doses!) pictures of women like Ki Toy can be helpful. Women who obviously work out, have a similar body type, and make me feel like “hey, if I actually committed and busted my backside for a while I could HAVE something similar to that” can be helpful. Pilar is gorgeous but she’s too tall and long-limbed for me to be able to relate and feel like that is accessible for me. Those are the legs of my fantasies only, lol. I think in small doses inspiration/motivation is a positive thing. Too much and you run the risk of forgetting to recognize that the women you are admiring often have Photoshop/incentive in the form of wealth, celebrity, trainers that regular women don’t have on their side and feeling more frustrated than motivated.

Natalie August 4, 2011 - 12:20 PM

I really LOVE this site! And I love this article. I’ve never been over 140 lbs–which some women scoff at because that is usually lower than their ideal weight– however, when you’re only 5’1” 140 lbs makes you look and feel like you weight a lot more. While I’ve never had in health complications, I’m surrounded by women in my family that are battling diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol–diseases that could’ve been prevented by healthy eating and exercising… My greatest fear is that I’ll be like my mom, aunts and cousins–sick. That alone should be my motivation but it hasn’t really clicked yet. I’m still waiting for that “A-ha,” moment.

Tawana August 27, 2011 - 6:53 PM

“No person or thing is more compelling than my health. Nothing – no strength, food or figure – is more important than ensuring that I’m around for as long as possible. I put myself first like that. I am my motivation. I own it.”

This statement is so powerful in so many ways. The statement is empowering and gives each person control over their health. In fact, I like this statement so much, I decided to print it in big bold letters and strategically place it in different areas around my home so that I won’t forget why I want to be healthier and who I’m doing it for.

1beautifullymade October 13, 2011 - 10:24 AM

To be honest..YOU are my inspiration! None of those pictures of any of the celebrities have ever inspired me to change….Reading your blog for 1 week..and seeing the realness in you..seeing your story(my story) looking me right back in my face..it just clicked something! I am so thankful! YOU are an inspiration!

Vee February 10, 2012 - 1:29 PM

No person or thing is more compelling than my health. Nothing – no strength, food or figure – is more important than ensuring that I’m around for as long as possible.

Excerpted from Is The Idea of Motivation Merely A Myth? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Erika you just don’t know how much you have helped me with this website/blog to stay in track and stay focus. Our health begins with us.

Stephanie October 31, 2013 - 5:18 PM

Wow, what a great article and site. I draw motivation from those around me and what I surround myself with; like this site. You provide inspiration needed for motivation through your posts. Thank you.

Sarah October 29, 2014 - 10:06 PM

Hi Erika,

the best thing I ever read for “motivation” was from you which was the idea of having faith in your efforts – like faith that even when you can’t see results right now or you still have “fat days” or whatever that gets you down – you just have to have faith that you’re doing the right thing and eventually eventually you will be better off – that has really changed things for me and I use that all the time !

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