The Key to Motivation


Is there such a thing? I recently had  a conversation with a health care professional.  He asked me “What is the key to getting people motivated and succeeding in their goals?”  I thought back to my own journey, as well as several clients that have made amazing changes in their lives.  It’s not a simple answer – and definitely not one answer for all – but I’ll do my best to explain!

The term “wellness” is defined as follows: 
1. the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
2. an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.

I believe these definitions hold very important truths.  1. It’s a deliberate effort.  2. It supports prevention vs. treatment.  Wouldn’t we all like to prevent ourselves from being overweight and unhealthy? But why is that so hard? At what point did it start to slip away from us?  Why do we wait until our health is literally failing, we’re in pain, our career is at stake (military folks), or even our LIFE is at stake?! And why the heck is the deliberate effort so hard?

My first step was to decide I wanted to change my health and accept the help that was being offered.  For me, that was my husband.  He loved me unconditionally, but he wanted me to be healthy and happy with myself.  He was the first one to guide me into cleaner eating.  Your help may come in the form of your spouse, a best friend, your trainer, a doctor, your First Sergeant, etc.  

The next two steps actually happened by accident, or at least I discovered them by accident.  My husband saw my  progress and continued to encourage me.  He suggested that I participate in the military bodybuilding show that was about 6 months away.  I half-heartedly agreed to do so thinking he’d forget about it.  Instead he began telling all of our friends and his co-workers.  A few weeks later I had all kinds of people coming up to me asking when my show was and could they come watch!  My husband had done 2 things that I now believe are some of the biggest keys to getting and staying motivated


  1. Goal Setting
  2. Accountability

I know for certain, had I not had a deadline to be in a tiny bikini, I would not have stayed on course as deliberately as I did.  I also know without a doubt that having loved ones, friends, fellow-gym goers, and yes, even those that possibly wanted to see me fail, helped me follow through to the end.  The more I become confident in my journey, the more I began vocalizing my goals to everyone I possibly could.  The more accountability I had, the more I wanted to go for it.  The more I spoke my intentions, the more real they became.  

Now, I’m not just talking about posting it on your Twitter or Facebook page either.  I mean audibly saying it – OUT LOUD – so that both the person you’re speaking to and you, yourself, hear each and every word!!  And saying it often in every situation possible.  It didn’t matter if we were going out to dinner  or if it was bedtime.  “Sweetie, I really want to stay on track, so I’m going to order the salad with the grilled turkey strips and dressing on the side.  I’ll also only have 1 piece of bread and 1 glass of wine.  Will you help me make sure I stick to that once we get to the restaurant?” “I need to make sure I’m in bed no later than 9 tonight.  Can you please remind me about 8:45 so that I can start heading upstairs?”  Not too difficult, is it?  And more difficult to stray from your goals after having done that.  Then, after accomplishing that, you wake up feeling encouraged and motivated for making great choices the day before and ready to tackle another one.

So let’s take goal setting for a moment.  Most people view goal setting right along with New Year’s resolutions…..”why bother?! It’s be forgotten in 3 weeks anyway……”  I take on a very different approach when I have my clients set their goals.  I actually give them instructions and a goal worksheet that I expect them to spend some time on.

Casey Cormier (click to view video), a beautiful and amazing young woman, asked for my help a few years ago.  She was suffering from severe anxiety and had developed a form of anorexia.  She didn’t have control over some of the things happening in her life, so she controlled her food intake to the point that her life was in danger.  Her career as an army nurse was also at risk as she was possibly going to be discharged due to being grossly underweight.  This courageous woman, with the help of her awesome husband, filled out her goal sheet so completely, that she attached additional pages!!  She was serious about regaining her health permanently!! We worked very hard with the foods she was comfortable with and step by little step, added a few in as she was comfortable. Was it difficult?  Of course!  Were there setbacks? You bet!!  Did she do it?  She sure did!!  And she’s now the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy and chubby little baby boy!!

So you set a goal with a timeframe.  Now what?  Where do you begin?  I believe educating yourself is the next key.  I’m always explaining that once you know something, you can never fool yourself into thinking anything different.  I know there are 900 calories in a Cinnabon and 1400 calories in the Quesadilla Explosion Salad at Chili’s (2 of my former favorite items).  I wouldn’t even dream of trying to tell myself “it’s a salad….it’s healthy!” now!!!  I have the knowledge to know what food does to my body and the proper way to fuel my body for how I want to look and feel.  There’s no going back now.  And if I DO decide to eat  a Cinnabon, I know I’m choosing that and the consequences that come along with it.  I no longer pretend I’m a victim, I take responsibility.

Most people will simply set a goal to lose 20 pounds, for example.  Well, that’s terrific!  But in what time frame?  What information do you need to help you reach that goal – nutrition, time management, workout advice?  What obstacles might pop up? How are you going to work around them? What happens if you fall off track?  Who are you going to seek encouragement and help from?Look at is from this perspective.  My husband and I would like to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in Thailand this fall.  Well, that’s terrific!  But when is “off-season”? Do we need travel visas? How expensive are the hotels?  How much leave can we take?  Do we have enough money in our bank accounts?  What about our son who’ll be here by himself? It’s not just that simple to WANT to do something.  You’ll have to educate yourself and you may need other people to help you with that.

There is sooooooo much information out there though.  Where in the heck do you begin?  This is a part of the accountability.  There are healthcare professionals that are full of information and resources such as our Health and Wellness Centers.  There are group fitness classes, personal trainers, health coaches, etc.  I found someone who lived a lifestyle I wanted to emulate.  Luckily, it was very close to home! 🙂  Be aware, there’s a lot of marketing schemes, tons of junk science, and even things I believe to be dangerous when it comes to health and fitness.  Be sure your source of information is reputable, accredited, not a “quick fix” like a 30-day program that has you on pills and shakes, etc.  Whatever you begin to do, you should be able to continue doing it for the rest of your life.

Theresa Johnson had experienced weight gain from the onset of depression after several miscarriages.  Oftentimes, we use food as an emotional tool to help us feel better.  Theresa and I worked to educate her on proper portions and balance of foods.  With a family, it’s important to make sure everyone can enjoy food too, so I loved showing her that eating healthy doesn’t mean chicken and salad for every meal!  Discovering that the changes can be fun, exciting AND delicious was great! That excitement lead to the desire to learn more and more.  Theresa not only met her goal, but she will be going after her personal training certification and working to inspire and help others!

Finding someone that inspires you and gets you excited is so important.  Think about the last meeting, class or conference you attended.  Was the speaker/instructor dynamic?  Were you pumped after leaving?  Did you feel they were knowledgable and passionate about their subject matter? My first coach taught me so much and gave so much of his time to me, I didn’t want to let him down (accountability!).  He was passionate about the sport I was training for and loved being in the gym as much as I did.  Try to find those people to help you out in every area, whether it’s the emotional piece, educational, nutritional , or physical piece of your goal.

Lissett Hinds suffered a devastating leg injury as a result of falling into an uncovered manhole in NY.  Her recovery was made even more difficult as she was also a single mom.  She knew she was all her daughter had and worked deliberately, through intense pain, over the course of several years to overcome it.  After being told by doctors she most likely would not be able to walk normally, to ever run or do heavy physical activity, she found a physical therapist than was passionate to help her get her life back.  Lissett is dancing, running, squatting her bodyweight and has even competed in a figure competition in high heels!  When someone told her “you won’t”, her response was “watch me!”

The fear of the unknown is the major piece that keeps us from acting on our goals.  We all WANT to do something and wanting it is easy, but the DOING piece is the hard part.  We would much rather stay where we are miserable because it’s familiar.  At least I knew what to expect when I was overweight.  I become comfortable in my misery hiding behind my kids in photos, layering clothes to hide my weight, avoiding swimming pools and beaches, making food for other people so I wouldn’t feel guilty eating it by myself.  The fear of working through the pain of an injury is very real.  It can be very easy to become comfortable simply accepting it and dealing with a lifetime of chronic pain.  Sound familiar?

But what if…..?  Once I discovered that the unknown wasn’t so scary and I had built a support system as my safety net, that’s when real changes began.  Yes, I slipped up occasionally and yes, I wanted to give up several times.  But after seeing results and getting so close, the desire to keep moving forward was much stronger than the desire to give up.  The people supporting me didn’t waver in their support, so I was not about to waiver in my effort. You’ll find that when you set a goal and reach it, it motivates you to go again!  Each one of the amazing ladies that I’ve mentioned above didn’t stop with their first goal, or even their second.  They haven’t stopped yet!!

  • Decide to ACT on what you want and desire

  • Set a date to reach healthy goal that will stretch you a bit

  • Share your goal with EVERYONE you can possibly think of – OUT LOUD!

  • Speak your goals often throughout your journey

  • Find people knowledgable and passionate about health and fitness that will help you, teach and mentor you, and encourage you

  • Set up pre-planned detours for when obstacles and challenges arise.  They may slow you down for a second, but don’t let them halt your progress you’ve worked so hard for

  • Take small steps at a time.  Start with 30 minutes at the gym 2 days a week instead of 5.  Track your nutrition intake on “My Fitness Pal” just one day a week instead of every single day.  Small steps will yield BIG results eventually!

  • Keep going!!!  

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