Motivation

PLEASE NOTE:  If you have not yet studied self-regulation with me, I think you would do well to start your exploration of motivation by first visiting the "self-regulation" page of this website.  Self-regulation actually gives the best context for appreciating the crucial issue of motivation. Please try that.  At a minimum, please read what I've written there.  Then try reading the first suggested article OR click on the reading that is entitled "self regulation abstracts". That is a compilation of self-regulation abstracts I put together some time ago, and I found that a remarkable number of people loved it  -  just scan through it and see what you find is interesting to you.  There is lots to explore.

But this is the page on motivation.  And motivation is in my mind THE KEY, THE ABSOLUTE KEY. Motivation is the central issue that EVERYONE seeking a sustainable path of weight management needs to tackle.  I cannot overstate this point. Please understand this!!!!

Here it is in boldest statement: The character and degree of your weight management motivation fundamentally determines how and when and whether or not you direct your focus and energy to your weight management goals. This is true in the short run (during weight loss). It is also true in the long run (during long-term maintenance). How well you do with weight management has EVERYTHING to do with your motivation.

This is not optional. You don't get to choose whether or not this is true. This is how it is, whether you recognize it or not. And sadly, most people do not recognize this. Most patients and most practitioners truly do not understand this point. 

Please become someone who does understand this.  With understanding and work, you can monitor and influence your motivation - you can take charge of your attentions to weight management and indeed, to other things that matter to you as well. Without understanding and work, you are at the mercy of, rather than in charge of, your motivations. Please read along and I hope you will see why I look at it this way. 

As fair warning, some of this motivation stuff is pretty complicated and confusing. But please don't let that turn you away. If you are in a Treatment Issues class with me right now, I promise to make sense of this stuff with you.

So please begin by reading and carefully considering my introduction below.  If you are already into this stuff, please read it again and see where you are at this point. We will be discussing it.

Then please go on to the area under "Treatment Issues Classes on Motivation". It divides out three specific angles on motivation.  We will be looking at all three.

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Dr. Bill's Introduction to Motivation   

Motivation is defined as "the psychological process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behavior".  It is what causes us to act, which means it is the process by which we determine toward what to channel our energy. Consider the notion of "being motivated".  I understand being motivated to mean having an energy or a drive to accomplish something. For our purposes, we are working to help you attain a sustainable motivation for long-term, positive weight management. We are working toward helping you attain a sustainable energy and focus on life-long weight management. 

Generally, we are motivated to act toward things that matter to us. So motivation has to do with the process through which we direct our energy toward what is important to us. Because we only have a finite amount of self-regulation energy, we decide to channel that energy toward our priorities. Understanding motivation is therefore understanding how we set and address our priorities. A sustainable motivation for long-term, positive weight management requires that weight management is a priority for you - all the time - whether your weight is high and you are working at weight reduction OR when your weight is good and you are working at the continuing maintenance of that good weight.

There are three principle factors that determine what we set as priorities:

Importance is one.  We place priority on what is important to us.  Within this factor, the larger the importance, the larger the motivation.  The motivated student is one who places great importance on his studies. People differ on what is important to them.  What is important to you? How is weight management important to you? Can you imagine it important no matter what you weigh?

Urgency is another factor. We place priority on what we see as an urgent demand or concern. People tend to direct energy to demands or concerns reaching a deadline.  Grade oriented students tend to direct more energy to their studies when a paper is due or when a test approaches. Is weight management an urgent priority for you? What happens when your weight is only urgent to you when it is problematically high?  What happens to your weight management when other motivations burst out with urgency? Sustaining a sense of urgency when you are at a good weight is an important challenge for long-term, positive weight management. There is important work here. This is the challenge of dwindling desperation syndrome.

Efficacy is a third factor influencing motivation.People will not direct energy toward something they do not think they can attain or accomplish.  Often when people see themselves to have repeatedly failed at something - like weight management - they stop directing attention to it. This state is called amotivational syndrome - failure syndrome. Do you relate to this? 

The self-determination theory literature has much to teach us about motivation.  It suggests there is a continuum of motivation types - ranging from no motivation (amotivation) to an almost inexhaustible motivation (intrinsic motivation).  Between the two are important types of motivation - some of them belonging to what we call controlled motivations (motivations that feel as though you are being controlled by the demands of the objective) - and others belonging to what we call autonomous motivations (motivations that feel as though you can meet them in a way that feels like you are in control).  The latter group of motivations is clearly more of a sustainable motivational foundation.  


So basically our questions are:

1. How would you assess your motivation for weight regulation?

2. If you find your motivation is of a more exhaustible type, is there someway to enhance it so it moves into the more autonomous, enduring category?

These are truly very important questions.

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Treatment Issues Classes on Motivation

If you are specifically reading this because you are in a Treatment Issues class, please note that we will initially be looking at motivation in terms of positive vs negative motivation. There isn't really much of a literature on this consideration, but we will cover it in class with an eye on how to promote positive motivation.  

We will then move to a consideration of motivation through the interesting lens of Self Determination Theory, with a central focus on controlled vs autonomous motivation.  Our eye will be on how to promote motivational change from controlled to autonomous motivation - simply because controlled motivation is unsustainable.  We will then also be looking at identification, integration and intrinsic motivations. And here our eye will be on how to promote progressive motivational change along the continuum which moves from amotivation to intrinsic motivation.

Then finally, we will be looking at motivation through the lens of Fritz Heider and his Attribution Theory. His work was the foundation for several spin-offs that are of exceptional importance for us:  learned helplessness, self-handicapping, empowerment and resilience. You can get a good start on this with the 5th article below: "Attribution Theory".  But I particularly like the chapter "Attribution Theory and Motivation" - found as the fourth selection below. In treatment issues class, we will pay particular attention to their suggestions regarding how to promote motivation through the use of empowering attributions. 


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To get started with understanding motivation, please click and read:
We will be referencing  this excellent article frequently. Pay particular attention to how the authors distinguish self-determination motivations from the more typical motivations referenced in weight management.  Understanding this will be the most crucial foundation for your work on motivation. 

Another excellent article is
Motivational Dynamics of Eating Regulation.pdf . As the title suggests, the emphasis here is specifically on eating. 

When you are ready, please keep on reading any of the other articles below.  One tip for reading this sort of research is to concentrate on the opening sections of the articles - paying less attention to the actual research.  I find it is in the introductions that the authors often present their thoughts and reasoning. Two favorites of mine are: Facilitating internalization-The self-determination theory perspective.pdf  and There's nothing more practical than a good theory-Integrating motivational interviewing. 

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Autonomy Support and Motivation is a recent article on the role of important others as powerful factors in sustaining higher levels of the most optimal forms of motivation.

Self-Regulation and Motivation in Weight Management is an editorial introduction to a special issue of 14 articles in the 2012 Journal of Obesity. It is not profound, but it is worthwhile reading.

Memorable Weight Messages and Motivation is a very interesting article looking at the intersection of self-talk, social support and motivation - using a different language than the self-determination theory language we normally use in this class.

Why We Eat What We Eat is an important article on the role of autonomous motivation in eating behavior.


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