“The mind is primary. The mind drags the body – struggling behind it – rarely the opposite. When spirit increases, improved physical performance is a consequence. As performance improves, spirit soars, confidence evolves and character develops.”
I’d like to share a part of a piece from our tactics pack which you can grab for free from our website.
The human brain is the most incredible piece of machinery we possess, on the one hand it can help us achieve amazing feats, and on the other it can be our own worst enemy. And trying to make positive changes can be incredibly difficult until you understand how your mind works.
Having a strong mindset that enables you to conquer your goals is not something that you either have or don’t have. Everyone can improve their mindset. The trick is to understand the formula that makes this possible.
The common mistake that most people make is relying ONLY on willpower and motivation, and being disappointed when it doesn’t work. A lot of people assume that when people achieve a big goal it is thanks to some kind of iron willpower that only certain people have.
But this is a myth.
The process I used to prepare myself for and successfully pass selection for Special Forces is the same process I apply to any goal and it does not rely solely on willpower or motivation. Yes they are of course important, but they must be applied in specific ways to get the maximum benefit.
BUT they used as a tool to build habits. And habits, systems and processes are absolutely the best chance you have at hitting your goals.
The entire strategy involves 4 key pillars:
This week I will take a look at willpower and motivation.
The dictionary definition of motivation is:
‘A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.’
The definition of willpower is:
‘Control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.’
An easy way to say this is:
Get motivated: Increase your desire to take action.
Use willpower: Force yourself to take action.
Let’s start with motivation.
Motivation is a concept used to explain:
- A behavior we wish to stop.
- A behaviour we wish to continue.
It involves an array of biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activate behavior and is more complex than simply watching inspirational Youtube videos!
Motivation is split between internal and external factors.
Intrinsic motivation stems from genuine interest and ambition, without assuming any reward.
Extrinsic motivation occurs when we perform a behavior to either earn a reward or to avoid a punishment.
(There are also crossovers, for example even when something is done through pure enjoyment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that external rewards are also not expected.)
Extrinsic motivation can be great for getting you interested in doing something in the first place. Typically when it comes to health this means looking a certain way, with the six pack being the classic example.
BUT once the initial interest wears off, and the realisation sets in of how difficult it can be to achieve a six pack, it is highly likely that external rewards will not be enough to keep you going.
This is where intrinsic motivation steps in but how do you find and build these internal motivators?
The following 4 factors all increase intrinsic motivation:
- Challenge: People are more motivated when they pursue goals that have personal meaning, and when attaining the goal is possible but not necessarily certain.
- Curiosity: When something about the activity stimulates the person to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity), internal motivation rises.
- Control: If results are attributed to factors under their control people are more motivated to continue (autonomy of control).
- Cooperation and Competition: Intrinsic motivation can be increased in situations where people gain satisfaction from helping others and in cases where they are able to compare their own performance favorably to that of others.
Within the TNE Community we see signs of this all of the time:
- Challenge: Improving health to have more energy for work & family or running a half marathon.
- Curiosity: An interest in the reasons why we factors such as fasting or better sleep can have such a profound effect.
- Control: Realising the power in their own actions, especially the small ones.
- Cooperation and Competition: Being part of an active community which encourages and supports one another.
However for some people this could be a long time in developing and external motivators like 6-pack abs might not be strong enough to keep us interested until that point. So what then?
Let Your Goal Pull You In
Another way to consider motivation by deciding if you are pushed towards your goal or pulled towards it.
Push motivations generally involve the avoidance of something as a stimulus to reach a goal.
- The avoidance of current pain:
- The search for a cure.
- E.g. being overweight and feeling stressed and anxious about not being able to fit into a swimsuit before a holiday.
- The avoidance of perceived future pain:
- Taking preventative measures.
- E.g. exercising to avoid putting on weight and looking bad at the beach.
The quest for a solution to a current pain can be extremely powerful because you are constantly reminded of the trauma everyday. However, the flipside is that once the pain is removed, so therefore is the motivation along with it. Which is why once your holiday is over the weight goes back on
Acting to prevent future consequences, the motivation is far less powerful for the majority of people. The human brain is not wired to act on impulses for something intangible such as a future feeling of unhappiness due to gaining weight.
If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”Steve Jobs
You can make use of motivations that push you into action, but a vision that pulls you can be far more powerful. Pull motivation is the desire to achieve something, to be drawn towards a goal rather than pushed to it.
This is where we can examine the idea of finding your why.
When it gets really tough you will eventually be forced to consider why you are continuing to work on something. As humans we generally don’t continue to make sacrifices or take risks without an emotional reason to do so.
Although the idea has been around in various guises for a long time, it was hugely popularised by Simon Sinek in his 2009 book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
The idea is summarised with his golden circle which can be useful in helping find your reasoning for pursuing goals. The idea of the golden circle is to discover what your purpose, cause, or belief is and use this to inform the rest of your actions – how and what you do.
In essence you need to go deep enough to find a why which enables you to construct an internal narrative which holds a strong enough resonance for you.
Action First Motivation Second This is key!
Motivation often comes after starting a new behavior, not before. We believe that motivation after PASSIVELY watching a motivational video or reading an inspirational book.
But ACTIVE inspiration can be far more powerful.
Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it.
Getting started, even in very small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once a task has begun, it is easier to continue moving it forward.
You don’t need much motivation once you’ve started a behavior. Nearly all of the friction in a task is at the beginning and after you start, progress occurs more naturally. Thus, one of the keys to getting motivated is to make it easy to start. And this is where willpower steps in.
Willpower isn’t something you have or something you lack, it rises and falls.
Willpower is the muscle of the mind. It is less comfortable and positive than getting motivated – it’s basically forcing yourself to do things.
And like a muscle it has finite resources, so the more you use it the less you have left in the tank. If you have a busy day at work where you need to make a lot of decisions, by the time you get home and have to decide whether to train or not it’s like you will choose the sofa instead.
Likewise when you’re tired, you’re probably more likely to make whatever decision comes easiest and requires the least amount of effort. You’re probably less likely to spend time thinking and acting in accordance with your long-term goals or thinking creatively through a challenging situation.
Basically willpower is just as tricky as motivation.
Motivation becomes more powerful once we are already moving, but we need willpower to kickstart the process.
And since willpower is like a muscle we need to treat it like one: If you ask it to lift a big task it is more likely to fail.
So instead you need to use a task so small it is almost impossible to fail.
Make it so easy that you can’t say no.”Leo Babauta
In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter. What does matter is becoming the type of person who always sticks to your new behaviour – no matter how small or insignificant it seems.
You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behavior becomes consistent. Take the example of starting an exercise program.
Week 1: Just put your gym kit on and walk for 1 minute or do 10 press ups or whatever, but that’s it, no more, no less.
Week 2: Add in slightly more exercise, but not much, just a small increase.
Week 3 & onwards: Keep building and adding until you are in the habit and routine of working out. THEN and only then should you address the performance side!
As you may have guessed, what we are doing here is using willpower to start building habits.
Which is exactly what we will look at in part 2.
The Limitless Challenge
Stressproof Your Mind And Body For Bulletproof Focus, Resilience & Mental Calm In Just 30 Days.
We are running a 30 day challenge to:
- Eliminate chronic stress
- Unlock your mental toughness
- Optimise long-term health
- Build confidence and self-reliance
- Enhance your ability to thrive