How to Change Your Thinking About Motivation for Good?

What’s the greatest obstacle between you and your fitness goals?

Your own mindset.

Have you ever started a program fired up with enthusiasm, but a few short weeks later found that enthusiasm strangely lacking?
‘I don’t have the willpower for this,’ you say to yourself. ‘I’m just not motivated.’

‘No Motivation’ Is Impossible

Russ Harris is a psychotherapist and a world expert on ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy). This is a mindfulness-based approach to changing our behavior. One question he is constantly asked is, ‘Russ, how do I increase my motivation?’

The Happiness Trap

Here’s the Answer Acoording to Russ Harris:

To have ‘no motivation’ is simply impossible. Everything we do all day long has some underlying motivation, including skipping a gym session.  Most of us commonly refer to motivation as that pleasant feeling of being vibed up and ready for anything. But motivation is what guides all our actions, even procrastination.

‘In my experience,’ says Russ, ‘when someone has no motivation, what they’re really saying is they want to do it, it’s important, but they’re not willing to take action unless they’re buzzed, inspired and in the mood. If they feel tired, bored or not in the mood, then they’re not going to do it.’  Sound uncomfortably like anyone you know?

Competing Desires and Motivation

The problem is we can’t summons the right feelings on cue like a genie in a bottle. You can’t rely on feeling fired up whenever it’s time to hit the gym.
According to Russ, if you wait for the right feelings before taking action, you’ll never move forward. What we have to do is assess our competing desires.

We frequently collide with our competing desires to:

  • avoid discomfort
  • act on our values

These motivations can tear us in 2—but, as Russ says, the avoidance driven life is far less rewarding than the values-driven life.  It’s a basic human instinct to avoid discomfort, so don’t despair about all your past misdeeds. But we can move on if we accept that we are going to feel this way sometimes and shift our focus from ‘motivation’ (unreliable) to ‘commitment’ (value-driven).

Actions First, Feelings Later

‘My golden rule is committed action comes first—motivation comes later,’ says Russ.  This golden rule is a win-win strategy. If we act on our values, even when we don’t feel like it, we create a richer, more meaningful life. We still cannot rely on those feelings of being supercharged and excited to show up, but it’s a bonus when they do.

Discipline and Willpower

In the same way that the ‘no motivation’ story can provide us with a convenient exit strategy, so can those related myths of ‘no willpower’ or ‘no discipline’.
Russ says, ‘The fantasy we construct is that there is this magical something called discipline, and once we possess it we’ll finally start living as we want to.’

This Thinking Creates 2 Problems:

  1. We go off in search of this magical something by reading articles and books or attending courses. This allows us to avoid committing to action right now.
  2. If we decide eventually the magic something can’t be found, then we can abandon doing what matters to us deep-down, because ‘we don’t have enough’ discipline or willpower.

Committed Action Is the Only Path

There is no gene for motivation that gives some lucky individuals the edge. It’s an equal opportunity quality, available to us all. ‘When we say someone has discipline or willpower,’ says Russ, ‘we mean that this person consistently commits to acting on their values and doing what they have to do to achieve their goals—even when they don’t feel like it.’

Author Bio:

Jill Brown is a writer, publisher and blogger who specialises in food, health and fitness. She blogs at

Jill Brown

I am a writer and blogger who specialises in food, health and fitness. I blog about eating well, eating ethically and living lean. I tweet about nutrition, fitness, social media and publishing.

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