Motivation is an Unreliable Emotion

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When it comes to buzz words, MOTIVATION is a pretty commonly used one.  ESPECIALLY when it comes to nutrition and training.  I’m pretty sure I’ve watched multiple Gatorade and Nike commercials centered around it, plus countless social media posts and time and time again in comes up in my client’s weekly check ins.

And the vast majority of the time when it’s used in real life and not advertising, it’s used in the negative: “I’m lacking motivation” or “I’m just not feeling motivated.” Or even, “HOW do I get motivated?”

Motivation is an EMOTION.  It’s a FEELING.  Just like happiness, sadness, annoyance or frustration.  And just like any other emotion it can come and go with seemingly no warning or reason.  Just like we can be happy one minute and full of rage the next. Or annoyed beyond belief and then instantly find that same person hilarious, motivation can vary and disappear.  From moment to moment, like prepping our clothes the night before because we are so pumped to go to the gym in the morning and then deciding that is the absolute LAST place we want to be when the alarm goes off at 5 am.  To changing in seasons, like ten weeks into a half marathon training plan that we hadn’t missed a run in yet, but then just can’t seem to want to lace up our shoes.

Because motivation is an emotion, it is completely UNRELIABLE.  We cannot base our actions and decisions upon it.  If I based my marriage on the emotion of passionate attraction, we’d be in a world of hurt when kid’s schedules and exhaustion and financial worries hit.  If I based my parenting on never being annoyed by my OWN kids…well we all know how that would go.  The same is true with motivation.  If I relied on being motivated to pack my kids lunches or clean the bathrooms, my kids would never have a midday meal and we’d have to move.

In the same way, we cannot rely on motivation for nutrition, exercise and fat loss goals.  

We are not always going to have motivation, to “want to”

  • Track our food
  • Eat within our macro budget
  • Say no to drinks
  • Eat adequate protein
  • Go to the gym
  • Go for a walk
  • Push ourselves past the point of comfort

Does this mean we don’t do these things when we’re not feeling motivated?


We cannot rely on motivation.  But we can rely on HABITS and DISCIPLINE.

This is the part of making changing and achieving goals that is harder to hear, and harder to implement, but where lasting change is made.

You have to create habits.  Things you do every day that set you up to achieve the goals you have set.  In our Stay Fit Mom sphere, these look like:

  • Planning dinners for the week
  • Prepping some amount of food, either weekly or daily
  • Pre-logging our food for the next day in MyFitnessPal
  • Having a training schedule

We do these things day in and day out, until they become second nature.  Habitual.

And DISCIPLINE is DOING all these things whether you feel like it or not, despite your excuses.

ALMOST ALWAYS, motivation FOLLOWS action.  

Read that again.  MOTIVATION follows ACTION.  NOT the other way around.

Do not wait for motivation to do the thing.  DO THE THING, and watch the motivation follow.

Why waiting for Motivation is holding you BACK.

Plan some dinners each week.  Grocery shop according to that plan.  Follow through and prepare those meals.  When you see how much time you save, how much easier your week goes and how smoother your days are, watch how “motivated” you are to do it again next week, knowing the benefits.  

Pre-plan your days in your food app and hit your macros in range for three weeks.  See how much easier it becomes as you feel better and confident

Run three days a week, or go to the gym regularly even when you don’t want to, and start to see your splits decrease or the weight you can lift increase.  There is NOTHING more motivating than RESULTS.

I am not saying to ignore motivation all together.  Capitalizee on the times you’re feeling motivated! Push hard during those times! And seek out motivators to bring on that feeling: an upcoming vacation, a race or competition, a reward when a goal is reached.  But DO NOT RELY on motivation.  

Build habits.  Practice Discipline.

There will always be excuses. Always be reasons why NOT to do something.  Discipline says do it anyway.  Discipline is not an emotion.  It is a skill we learn, we practice and we improve at.  

Practice discipline.

Ready for some practical application? Read Habit Stacking and Tracking Macros.

Habit Stacking and Tracking Macros

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