Life Health

Motivation must be more than skin deep

By Dai Manuel



There’s a line around the corner to get in the gym, health food stores are littered with detox kits, juices and smoothies, and every other Facebook ad littering our feed claims this is THE year for a "new you" – meh!


It must be Jan. 1.

Do you find yourself sitting shotgun on the "Resolutionists" bandwagon (again) this year?

The Urban Dictionary defines Resolutionists as "people who join the gym in early January because of their New Year’s Resolution. Resolutionists can be spotted by their pasty white skin, excessive fat, poor form, and blank look on their face as they stand next to any piece of gym equipment. Resolutionists usually migrate back to the couch any time from mid-January to early March."

I find this tongue-and-cheek definition to be borderline offensive. But what’s even more disheartening is that it echoes a cliché that seems to be proven true over and over again. If you’ve happened to set a New Year’s resolution that involves a health or fitness goal, chances are you’ve already given up. In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 64% of people will continue their workouts into February.

The problem, based on my personal experience after 20 years in the industry, is that many of the health and fitness resolutions revolve around appearances – to lose 20 pounds, "look good" in a bikini or get six-pack abs. These are fantastic goals, but when I would often seek to understand my client’s motivations for setting this type of goal, the answer was normally, "um, I don’t know." The "what" is easy to say, but the "why" – the emotional connection (aka internal motivation) – is not clearly understood.

Reminiscent of the days when my kids were four and six, I tend to respond to my clients in the same fashion: "Why do you want to attain that goal?" After we peel back the top layers of desire, we find there’s a lot more going on. The internal motivators are deeply rooted in a desire to create a more fulfilling life.

For example, if you are overweight, your clothes don’t fit right and your confidence in yourself reflects that. Maybe you find yourself out of breath every time you climb a flight of stairs. In both situations, a lack of health is holding you back from having fun in life. Mentally, they’re exhausted all the time and they want it to stop. The goal isn’t just about dropping two pounds, it’s about finding self-confidence, and leading a healthier and happier life.

Psychologist Dr. Scott Gellar knows self-motivation. His TEDx talk connects one’s feelings of empowerment to self-motivation. Throughout his talk he references four Cs - competence, consequence, choice and community, and encourages us to ask ourselves three questions to see if we truly feel empowered to do something (like work toward a goal).

Start by asking yourself, “Can I do it?” When you look at the goal itself, can you do it with the knowledge that you currently have? If you feel competent that you can achieve the goal, then this is awesome, go forth with the confidence that you CAN lose 20 pounds. Seriously, you know what to do, eat smart, move more, repeat often. BAM!

Question 2, “Will it work?” If you were to commit to moving your body with purpose daily and you started to make smarter decisions with your nutrition, THEN would you find yourself losing weight? Umm… YES! Fantastic.

And while on this train of thought, what would be the consequence of not following through with your goal? See where I’m going with this. This leads into question 3, “Is it worth it?” What would your life FEEL like if you lost the 20 pounds and could climb a flight of stairs without panting like a Golden Retriever? Do you think it would be worthwhile pursuing the goal?

Gellar, and other psychologists know, when you are mindful of personal choice you will realize motivation.

You see, it all comes down to a personal choice. A decision to make a change. It’s all on you. But you don’t have to be alone in this endeavor. That’s where community comes in. Social support from a network of like-minded, empathetic people, creates a tremendous sense of connection with other people. And bottom line these people, when surrounded by this community (or as I say in my book, The Whole Life Fitness Manifesto – your TRIBE), you’ll feel happier and motivated to crush any goal you’ve set for yourself.

So what if it’s Jan. 1. Who cares what year it is?! We’re talking about a lifetime. Your lifetime. Say NO to resolutions, find a tribe and know that leading a life of optimal health and happiness starts with a personal choice.

So what will it be?

Dai Manuel talks about health, fitness and lifestyle online at and on Twitter @DaiManuel