What Motivates You?

Knowing what motivates you is absolutely essential to the execution of your goals. Otherwise, they won’t stick. They will be “projects” and you will get bored, frustrated, scared, and give up at some point. Just watch the health clubs. Those of us with a fitness “lifestyle” see it every year. We are there all year. But in January the “Resolutionists” come out in DROVES. The place is packed. By the 7th, a bunch are hurt or so sore they give up. By the 15th, a TON will go away. They lacked the long-term motivation keys to keep it up. By the 31st the VAST majority are gone and there is a sense of normalcy again in the club. A FEW will stick it out until the end of February. And fewer more will make it a multi-month or multi-year or lifestyle change. Sad. And unnecessary.

Although my perspective is really somewhat “fitness” related, this works in every aspect of life. Personal, Business, Spiritual.

Let’s take a look at the types of motivation, as I see it.

PUSH Motivation

This is the weakest kind, but most common. This is where people are TOLD or FORCED into change. A spouse tells they other they’re “too fat, get to the gym” (yes, there are idiots who say stuff like this), a Dr says “you will die if you don’t lose 100lbs” or whatever.

If you look at it high level, you can see why this is doomed. The person DOES NOT WANT to change. It IS NOT THEIR idea and it’s doomed. Even being told you are going to die or die early it just won’t last. There is no buy in.

NOW, saying that, PUSH can be helpful. But only if combined with the others. So…. keep reading!

RIDING along

I love the graphic I found above. Look how happy that kid is riding in the cart.  Some people are not “A Type”. Yeah, really. I have no idea how that works, because it is certainly not me. BUT, let’s pretend they exist. Let’s call them “B Type”. They enjoy the company, the ride, the experience. Well, GET IN THE CART! That’s all they really NEED to keep things moving. So long as they are in a cart, they’re happy as a clam. And guess what? Carts move FORWARD. So you can still get to a goal while fitting with the style that works for you. It’s extra helpful is someone you enjoy being with enjoys PULLING, because then it will certainly get you to a destination.

People for whom this works enjoy social workouts, team projects, and community events. This is just SUPER AWESOME BEST THING EVER type of stuff. And it’s not just the event, it’s all the things leading up to it.

So think about it from a fitness perspective. If you are this kind of person, you need to find a club or a groups of friends who have similar goals. Like running a race or whatever. Then you all enjoy the ride together!

PULL Motivation

For the “Type A” folks all you need is a goal that you’re truly invested in. Then, the rest is easy. You put together the parts you need to do to achieve this. However, for those folks you have to continue to expand your goals. However, don’t fall into the “bigger is better” trap. There are many facets of this. Some goal points to consider (racing based, but for those who don’t, read between the lines):

  1. You can go LONGER. For Triathlon, Running, and Cycling this is easy. Run a mile. Done? Next goal, 5k. Then 10k. Then 13.1 miles (half marathon). Then Marathon. The Ultramarathon. However, the trap to longer is eventually… you cannot sustain it OR it no longer becomes “fun”. Once “fun” is gone you have to move on… so read on.
  2. You can go FASTER. For racing, this is obvious. If you really like the 5k distance but you’re horrible at it (ahem… like me!) you can focus on this distance and work to move from “dead frackin last” (DFL) to “middle of the pack” to “front of the pack” to “podium”. This process can take YEARS. So lots of room for growth. Hit a plateau? Loose the “fun”. Keep reading…
  3. You can go DIFFERENT. Let’s stick with the 5k idea. Let’s say you’ve made it from DFL to Middle of Pack. You realize that all the other 40yr old men are REALLY fast and you might best be suited for waiting until they start dying off before you claim your podium spot (ahem, are we talking about ME again? Huh!). Ok, Try a TRAIL 5k. It’s nothing like a road race. Try it. Friggin blast. Or a TEAM 5k. Or an underwater 5k (ok, I made that up, but how cool would that be?). You get the idea… switch up one of the variables… it’s still running, it’s still 5k, but… it’s a different format. There is a lot to learn and many skills to achieve to move ahead. Good stuff.Ok, not fun? Then if you haven’t figured out to read on…. read on!
  4. You can go COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Attack something that you STINK at. For me, that was running. I mean really, at 322lbs what the heck was I thinking? Simple. It was a challenge. It was outside my comfort zone. I started doing cyclocross bike racing for the same reason.  What about an adventure race? Like Warrior Dash, Spartan, or Tougher Mudder?  There ya go. How about Racquetball. Or Ping Pong? Or Golf? Or… or…. you get the idea?

It’s good to be the newbie. It teaches you humility. It forces your body to move and act in different ways, which is healthy. And it opens an entire new set of activities to achieve your goals. For PULL motivation, this is the key. You need a GOAL that is pulling you forward.  You have that, you are good.

PULL can come from many internal motivations. Some feel the need to break down stereotypes, some by winning, some by accomplishing something few others have, some do it to be closer to Jesus Christ/God, some do it for family, some do it to prove their daddy wrong. Why isn’t as important as long as there is something. Always. It won’t always be easy to hit your goals. If it is, your goals will not have that DEEP and LASTING satisfaction that comes from achieving something big. Something important. Easy wins have little value. HARD wins… that lasts.


Many people ask IF I am “done”. I feel bad for these folks because they do not get it (unfortunately, it’s most of the population). Look folks, you move forward or you start dying. Nature is cruel and really doesn’t give a darn about you and your problems. You need to use whatever motivation you can to keep moving in a positive direction in your life. This is the big realization I came to when I decided to change my life in 2003.

Many people have asked me how I made all the changes I’ve made and how I’ve managed to accomplish what I have. I mean really, who’d have thought some 322 lb lard-butt (me) would do an Ironman (me) and then soon after seriously think about “doing something short this winter… like a marathon” (me). For someone who placed DEAD LAST in a 5k in 2004 (me), that’s a pretty big change (me!!!!!). Well, I didn’t get there alone and you won’t either. Here’s the secret… it’s easier than you think.

You need all (3) forms of motivation.

Like and recipe for cooking you need to mix them up in the right combination for your taste.  And that depends on who you are and how you think. For me, it was this:

  • 6 parts PULL. I needed a BIG GOAL. Dream no small dreams. I was inspired by watching the Escape from Alcatraz and Ironman Kona shows on TV. Amazing. Impossible. FREAKING AWESOME. Could I do that? Oh I SO want to do that. Or at least say I did that :)
  • 3 parts RIDE. I needed a social support system. My family, the Prairie Dogs triathlon club, folks at work, and my “imaginary” friends on (now were all in.  When it got hard, real hard, they had my back. They kept the cart moving so I could rest.
  •  1 part PUSH. I don’t like to be told what to do. Kind of pisses me off most times, actually. But my Doctor did say I would die young, I would have diabetes and lose my pilot’s license, and I would have to add to the 10 medications a day I was already taking, and I would have many more health problems. Thanks Dr Demke for not pulling any punches.

What’s your recipe? 2 parts PULL, 4 RIDE, and 1 PUSH?

Whatever it is… build it up. It takes time. I’m not talking DAYS people! This stuff can take time. Lots of time. It won’t be perfect. It DOESN’T HAVE TO!

Just start.



Seriously… get off the computer and get started. Only you can do that.

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