When it Comes From Within, You Win
It is a question that gets asked of us over and over again... why did you start? How did you get interested? Why do you want to make a change? In fact, it is a question I ask each one of my clients at our first session. When we are young, little munchkins this answer almost always comes out instinctively: "Because it's fun", "I like it", "I get to spend time with my friends", "It makes me happy", whatever it may be. But, for some reason, as we age this answer transforms. This answer often becomes about external motivators - glory, prizes, praise, championship trophies, fame, appearance, popularity - the list is endless. Somehow as we grow up from childhood to adolescence to adulthood there is a shift in emphasis on external rewards. I would even argue that this shifting trend is starting even earlier in our youth today at the height of social media. We begin to lose sight of that instinct that came so natural when we were little - that instinct that says do what you like to do, what you love, what makes you happy, do it for YOU.
This is alarming for several reasons. Perhaps the most important reason being, what happens to the individuals who rely on external motivators when those external motivators are removed? To answer quite simply, the reaction is often to quit, give up, lose interest, burnout, internalize this as a defeat. When our focus is almost entirely narrowed in on external rewards we begin to equate these rewards to our self-worth. We begin to value ourselves on the approval of others, be it physical appearance, social acceptance, social praise, public display of accomplishment, etc. Our self-worth is objectified by something out of our control. Too often people begin to label themselves as failures when they are not accepted by their peers, when they do not hit their goal, when no one acknowledges their progress, or they have fewer symbols of victory (i.e, trophies, medals, certificates, awards, etc) than their peers. I see it all the time at the gym - the people making those New Years Resolutions they proclaim to the world, just so they can "wow" people, impress them with their lofty goals. But, then when they do not see results, when the social support and praise begin to fade, so too does their adherence to their workout and diet regimen. Their presence in the gym fades until soon the resolution is some distant memory that they might "try again next year". But, continuing along the same pattern yields the same results. Something has got to change.
What has to change? Our mindset. We need to put the focus back on us. What we do and why we do it needs to start with us. There needs to be a re-learning curve that occurs for people to acknowledge that their happiness and success starts from right within them. If we love what we are doing, shouldn't that be enough? If we have given it all we have, regardless of the outcome, shouldn't that be enough? The answer is a resounding YES! It should be enough, but we have let ourselves lose sight of this. We must re-relearn ideals like self-praise, self-esteem, self-efficacy, internal motivation. For these are some of the most valuable constructs to our interpretation of ourselves as a person, our present happiness and quality of life.
I recently posted this picture with this quote: "Anybody can start, it takes a special person to carry on when others would expect you to fail. It takes the type of person who is not afraid to take risks, make themselves vulnerable. It takes someone who won't quit until their biggest weaknesses become their biggest strengths. It takes someone fueled by internal motivation so powerful that words of their skeptics are mere whispers in the wind. This type of person is unstoppable."
When you set your goals with you in mind, whether it is pertaining to your health, your happiness, your interests, your perception of yourself, etc. you set yourself up for success. YOU are the constant. Other people, prizes, and praise - those things come and go. YOU are always there. So your motivation to not let YOURSELF down is able to fuel your every move. It comes down to priorities. Are you a priority to yourself? Is your health a priority? Your happiness? These things without a doubt should be. We are not prepared to give ourselves fully to others until we have made the best version of ourselves from the inside out. Ultimately, though, our internal motivation is only strong enough to overcome any barrier if the internal motivations are built on the foundation of sound priorities and values. If it is not truly important to you deep within your heart, it is not a valid internal motivation. If your internal motivator is not important to you, you'll look for the nearest excuse at the first sight of an obstacle, much like what happens when those external motivators disappear from your life. I challenge you to find that inner young, munchkin version of yourself from inside of the present you. Find that version of yourself that does what you do because it brings you the utmost happiness, because you love it, because it makes you a better person, because it is for you. Once you've discovered that, you will no longer be dependent upon external motivators to push through. You will continue on towards your goals because you want to prove to yourself you're capable. And with that, you will be proud of what you accomplish, what you've worked for, and be eager and excited to get after something new.
So, what are your internal motivators? What are those values from within you that will take you to the highest heights and make you unstoppable? Soon, these will be the questions to be asked over and over again and we will again have instinctual responses for them. Let's get there. The transformation starts with us. Fuel from within, you will win.