Did you know that motivation has a mathematical formula to it? And that this formula has 4 factors?
And that YOU can directly manipulate each part of this formula on how to stay motivated to workout?
If you think this sounds too far fetched then consider the case of Nick Winters who used this VERY SAME motivation equation that we would discuss here to summon incredible and almost magical- like motivation similar to Aladdin summoning the big bald genie.
This genie -like motivation enabled Nick to write a book, learning to write 3,000 new Chinese words, do marathon training, learning to skateboard, learning skydiving, launching an iPhone app, increasing his bench press by 60 pounds, reading twenty books and a whole lot more totaling to 18 missions in total.
All in just 3 months!!
What I also liked about Nick’s book is that it is not written from an academic standpoint but from his own experience in applying this genie like equation.
And you can read it in just 90 minutes!..or less!…it’s just 138 pages long and a very funny and easy read.
In this first article of this two part series on motivation we would look at the first 2 factors. In the second article we would look at the other 2 factors.
But first a bit of background on motivation.
What Motivation Isn’t
When we think of motivation we either think of a unicorn running through a flower garden or of some dude in suit and tie giving a pumped up rah rah speech.
You see your friend never missing a workout or never eating a bad meal and you assume he is motivated because he was born that way.
If that was so then why do we see people who are out of shape and unhealthy all their lives suddenly start eating healthier and exercising?
Where did that motivation suddenly come from? I am sure it wasn’t from a unicorn or screaming knight.
Getting a fit body is a lot of work but if you are motivated enough you would gladly get up at 4:00am and hit the gym or do your yoga postures even if it’s raining or snowing.
And that rain or snow would feel like a warm bed!
What motivation is (we can create it to!)
Motivation is basically ‘why’ we do something or the reason why we take a certain action.
Having motivation doesn’t mean that your gym or yoga workouts would become easier. You would still feel the intense lactic acid burn of your bench press or the stretch of your muscles in that yoga pose.
But you would have more fun doing it! If you have more fun doing something then you are more likely to stick with it in the long run.
Don’t Be Judged
Don’t let anyone judge you for your motivation. If your goal is not to ‘help the world’ or rescue turtles then that’s OK. Your goal could very well be to get your ex-boyfriend jealous or to live in a mansion made of gold. Motivation is personal to you!
The Motivation Equation
So what’s this great motivation equation that I am referring to?
This is straight from Nick’s book, but Nick got it from another book called The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel.
The equation is:
Motivation = E x V / I x D
- Expectancy is your confidence of success (E)
- Value is how rewarding the task is when completed and how much fun you have while doing it (V)
- Impulsiveness is how distracted you are likely to become, making you put of the task and do something else (I)
- Delay is how far off in the future the reward seems (D)
Your aim is to increase Expectancy and Value while decreasing Impulsiveness and Delay!
Do that and you are well on you way to flying on wings to the moon!
Don’t worry keep reading and it would become clearer.
Let’s now look at how we can increase or decrease each of these factors accordingly.
In this first article we would look at the first 2 factors : Expectancy and Value.
Expectancy is your confidence of success. So how confident you are that you can lose that extra 50lbs? Or how confident are you of sticking to your workout for the next 3 months?
We can manipulate our expectancy of success by:
- Setting small success spirals based on a process oriented goal.
Success begets success as the cliché goes! Set yourself a series of small but achievable goals.
The point is to succeed at each milestone that you set. One success gives confidence of another and so on…like a spiral.
It’s better to focus on process oriented goals rather than numeric goals.
A process goal is a goal that focuses on actions or steps that you take daily to achieve something.
First set your numeric goal and then map out the actions you need to take daily to achieve it. …and focus on those actions.
So instead of saying that you want to lose 3 lbs this week say ‘I am going to the gym 3 days this week and eating 5 servings of vegetables, 100 g each of protein and carbs’.
Once you stick to your workout and diet schedule you now build the confidence that you can repeat this process again the next week and hence forth.
- Role Models
You can increase your expectancy for success by looking at other people who achieved what you want.
When I started out at 265lbs I looked at people who were 300lbs heavy and who ended up with a six pack! If they can do it then so can I!
I agree that some people may have better genetics, may have more time available or can afford to pay for a personal trainer or personal dietitian, but the fact that it can be done and accomplished gives a greater expectancy that you can do the same.
- Mental Contrasting
I like to think of this as being realistic.
Close your eyes and visualize your success and desired body or health levels but also contrast it with where you are presently and what it would take to reach your goals.
This technique was developed by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and was found to be more effective than traditional visualization of only visualizing the positives.
If you think it’s all easy work then when reality hits you there would be disappointments and your confidence could take a hit.
- Use the Planning Fallacy
This occurs when we underestimate the time it would take to get something done and any obstacles that may arise along the way.
Plan for these in advance. For e.g. I go to the gym after work so I normally arrive there by around 5:00pm.
There are days when there is heavy traffic or I have to work late. When this happens my motivation wanes a bit. My contingency plan then is to just show up at the gym and everything else is a bonus.
Although my intensity is minimized, I am ensuring that my frequency is maximized.
Just remember ‘minimize intensity and maximize frequency’.
It’s OK minimize intensity sometimes….if it is warranted. But at the same time make sure it is warranted and you haven’t lost the zeal.
This way you are ensuring that your success spirals don’t take a hit. You want to guard against downwards success spirals.
Now let’s look at the second factor: Value
This is the reward a task would bring you when finished and the fun you have while doing it.
For e.g. getting ripped may get me more girls. Be careful with these as if getting ripped doesn’t get you girls then you would be disappointed and may give up all together.
Here are some ways to increase value:
- Perform on the edge of your capabilities by doing tasks that are not too easy but not too hard either that you can’t achieve them.
For e.g. there is no fun playing tennis against a four year old as it’s not challenging enough but playing against Serena Williams would be too challenging and can kill of your motivation.
In terms of your workout you can try to increase your bench press or squat by 4% per week or the length of time that you hold each yoga pose by 4% every week.
Why 4%? In the book The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler says that 4% outside your current comfort zone is where the sweet spot lies.
I have never used a particular percentage to make my workouts more challenging but if you are looking for a numeric guide then give the 4% guide a shot and let us know how it works out.
Or you can try different slightly more difficult routines to keep things fun!
Or invite a friend to the gym and have a fun friendly burnout session seeing who can curl 100 reps the fastest.
For eating you can try new healthy recipes adding a new spice or so each week. Or you can have a competition among your friends to see who can cook the tastiest grilled tofu.
Be creative and make it fun! Fun is part of value! Maybe cook your meals with your non dominant hands while dancing and singing like Bilbo Baggins hobbits!
- Connect your tasks to your ‘why’ or deeper purpose. See this article for more on the ‘why’. See this longer term. Maybe at 90 years old you want to be doing a marathon with your 60 year old kid and 85 year old wife.
- Set Challenging Goals
An example of a challenging goal would be to eat 100% vegan for one month; or lose 50 lbs within the next 6 months.
Losing 5 lbs is not exciting and that’s why you see someone 50 lbs overweight training harder than someone just whom is just slightly overweight.
Do be careful though when setting challenging goals. If you have eaten meat every day then it may be difficult to set a goal like eating 100% vegan for a month. So maybe set it for a week.
But make it challenging.
What may be challenging for one person may not be for another. Only you can decide what your level is.
In part two we would look at Impulsiveness and Delay and see how we can reduce these…..until then amp up your Expectancy x Value but not with a unicorn or rah rah speech!