Motivation is tricky. If you don’t feel the urge to hit the gym, you can’t just go to the store and buy more motivation. Some people seem to have the secret to keeping themselves on track, but if you don’t, it can make you feel even less motivated.
One tactic for keeping yourself on track is to tell others about your goals. They can keep you accountable. In a sense, you’re exposing yourself to criticism by opening up about your goals to others. The fear of others finding out you’re a failure is enough to propel some people to wake up early and go to the gym.
Still, that might not work for others. As with most things related to the human psyche, motivation isn’t black and white. Take, for example, the self-determination theory of motivation.
There are three pillars to this theory: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. To reach your full potential you need to meet all three of these needs, according to the theory.
Right off the bat you might be able to notice a contradiction: autonomy and relatedness are both needs. That’s right, you need to be able to do something on your own while retaining a strong connection to others.
How does this work? Imagine a pack of dogs pulling a sled in Alaska. They’re all on the same team, but they don’t all pull the sled with equal strength. Some run with more power than the others and contribute more.
This is similar to a group fitness class, where some people are beginners and others are advanced or experts. Instead of pulling a sled, the group of exercisers are pulling each other through a workout.
More advanced people are less reliant on others for motivation, some research shows. They’re more autonomous and more competent. Beginners naturally have less motivation and rely on others in the group more. They’re less autonomous and competent, so they depend more on relatedness.
Remember that, according to this theory, you need to be both autonomous and related. A group of people who workout together achieve those goals, particularly if they’re not all at the same skill level.
Your peers can also keep you accountable. You might not want to show up for a workout class, but the fear of letting others down can propel you to go. This is not a bad thing, as long as you continue to improve and develop more autonomy over time. The better your skills are, the more autonomous you become, which can actually increase your motivation.