OACCUs – Get motivated!

How to achieve your goals to live a healthier life 

Who doesn’t know the feeling: after a long hard day, exercising and cooking a healthy meal is the last thing you feel like doing. But what is it that gets us off the couch and into our training gear?  

First of all, let’s have a look at the different forms of motivation: 

Intrinsic motivation 

In psychology, also applied to sport, we speak of “intrinsic motivation” when you engage in a behavior because you find it interesting and rewarding. You are performing an activity for its own sake rather than from the desire for some external reward.[1] For example, participating in a sport because you find the activity itself enjoyable.  

Extrinsic motivation 

“Extrinsic motivation”, on the other hand is activated when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity because we want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.[2] For example, participating in a sport to win awards. 

Research and practical experience agree that intrinsic motivation is stronger than extrinsic one. However, there will always be challenges that we don’t find enjoyable, interesting, or exciting, and that may feel overwhelming for us.  
 
Here are some tips on how you can find and maintain intrinsic motivation: 

  • Make sure you understand what you want to achieve. Set SMART goals (keep reading to learn how to). 
  • Define where you stand. How do you feel before and after you’ve worked out? 
  • The support of your family and network of friends can help you maintain determination and strengthen motivation. 
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. This will motivate you for the next goal.  

How to set SMART goals: 

The SMART goals approach tells us precisely how to define our goals so that they are easier to manage.[3]  

 S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the 5 basic characteristics that a goal must have: 

      • SPECIFIC – goals must always be clear and well defined. 

For example, “I will go for a run in the woods twice a week for 30 minutes in order to improve my endurance” 

      • MEASURABLE – It is important to set measurable goals, to track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal. Moreover, as you get closer to achieving your goal, intrinsic motivation increases. 

Regarding our previous example: you can easily measure the distance and time with an app on your phone and see if you have improved your endurance. 

      • ACHIEVABLE – Your goal also needs to be attainable to be successful. The chosen goal should be realistic, i.e. achievable based on our real skills and abilities. Adaptations are necessary if the chosen goal proves too difficult or not ambitious enough. 
      • RELEVANT – A goal is relevant when it has a hold on our emotions and has a meaning for us. This makes us feel happy when we reach a goal. 
      • TIME-BASED – Define a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward.  

In the end, ask yourself: Did I reach my goal? If yes, how do I continue? If not, what could/should I do differently? 

Be mindful: Formulate the objectives in a positive way and not as prohibitions. Instead of “I don’t want to do something” or “I won’t do something anymore” think “I want to do more of” or “I want to get better at”.  

Setting SMART goals and developing strong intrinsic motivation not only gives you structure but will also help you build a healthier lifestyle.  

For a wholistic approach, try to set goals within each of the four pillars of a healthy lifestyle:  

  • Physical Activity & Outdoor Sports;  
  • Balanced Nutrition;  
  • Sustainability & Nature; 
  • Physical & Mental Well-Being.  

Learn more about the pillars HERE.  

[1]  Lee W, Reeve J, Xue Y, Xiong J. Neural differences between intrinsic reasons for doing versus extrinsic reasons for doing: an fMRI study. Neurosci Res. 2012;73(1):68-72. doi:10.1016/j.neures.2012.02.010 
[2] Tranquillo J, Stecker M. Using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in continuing professional education. Surg Neurol Int. 2016;7(Suppl 7):S197-9. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.179231 
[3] Meyer, P. J. (2003). Attitude is everything!: If you want to succeed above and beyond. Paul J. Meyer Resources.