Motivation 2020


Motivation refers to the complex psychological factors that determine how and toward what we distribute our self-regulation energy and focus. Motivation determines whether and how much energy we will direct to weight management at any given moment – any given period of time. Most people go about their lives without any real understanding of the factors that influence their motivations and certainly without a sense that they can or should manage them.

In weight management, this is a particularly problematic fact because imposing health behavior change is a matter best achieved through the use of a specific kind of motivation. It becomes an even larger issue though in long-term maintenance because the kind of motivation that works best for that is different than what works best for weight loss. Most people don’t know that. They just know that over time, they stop feeling the same motivation for continuing with the health behaviors than they felt during weight loss.

Our thesis is that equipped with understanding and a willingness to do a bunch of careful work, you can and should monitor, influence and manage your weight management motivation – from weight-loss through maintenance.

          Points of Importance

1. Influencing Which Motivation Gets the Juice

In a life where you are simultaneously facing an array of different motivations, and in a psyche that has a finite amount of self-regulation energy at any given moment, you are in a constant (if not conscious) process of assessing when and how much energy and focus to give your varying motivations. Sometimes the nod goes to addressing weight management. Sometimes it goes towards other things. We think the assessment of where to place your energy is generally made in accordance with the following factors:

            a. The felt importance you place on each motivation

            b. The felt urgency you feel each motivation has

c. The efficacy you do or don’t feel about addressing each motivation (if you don’t really think you can do something about the motivation, then why waste energy on it?)

d. The felt immediacy of payoff from behavior you direct toward each motivation

Understanding these factors is really, really helpful in understanding the coming and goings of your motivations. The four factors fluctuate in context – relative to fluctuations in each motivation. Consequently, understanding how to intervene when you wish to down-regulate or up-regulate the valence of a particular motivation is kind of the magic key to motivation management. 

 2.  Angles Into Understanding Motivation

            a) Self-Determination Theory and Motivation: provides us an understanding of how sustainable and consistent motivations can be,                     based on how self-determining they are – based on how much your involvement in the motivation feels like something that is connected                with you being you! When the motivation feels self-determining, it tends to be something you engage in without having to control                         yourself – and rather, it feels like something that aligns with being yourself and requires no particular force – just choice – choosing to                 brush your teeth -choosing not to eat deserts on weekdays because that’s who you are – that’s what you do. The SDT literature lists the                   following types of motivation along a continuum according to how self-determining they are:

                        1. Amotivation: no motivation at all

2. External motivation: when you are motivated by pressure coming from outside of you – from a parent or from a rule or from a doctor.  

3. Introjected motivation: Similar to external motivation, but is when you take in the external pressure and instead work from pressuring yourself.

External and introjected are what we call “controlled motivations” – they mean that you have to force yourself – you have to control yourself - in order to engage in the behaviors that involve pursuit of the motivation. These motivations are generally how health behavior changes begin – with you needing to control yourself from doing the things you normally do, in order to do the new behaviors that will be healthy.  Controlled motivation is a good thing. It can be powerful and as the motivation type for initiating change, it is a crucially important motivation. But controlled motivation generally takes a great deal of energy and perhaps because of this, it tends to deplete over time – over the time of each day, over the days of each initiative…etc.

4. Identification motivation: this is what happens after you reproduce the new health behaviors on a regular basis – slowly – in increments of change – the new behaviors grow into being what you do as a component of the things that you do that are just you being you. Identification motivation is the first of the three motivations we call “autonomous” motivations” because they do that – they feel like you being autonomous – they feel like you being you.

5. Integrated motivation: this is what happens when you thread together the identification motivation with values and issues that are truly of huge importance to you. They are kind of like identification motivation on steroids because you have a very powerful want to do things that are not only you being you, but you being you in really important ways.

6. Intrinsic motivation: this is the motivation you have to do things you really really like to do – to do things you enjoy – to do things you find super meaningful. As you will read in the next section, intrinsic motivation is the thing that tends to require the least amount of self-regulation energy. You truly do not have to control yourself to do these things – in fact you kind of have to control yourself at times not to do these things.

While the controlled motivations are what we engage in to introduce health behavior change, they are not the kind of motivation you need for continuing health behavior maintenance. For that, autonomous behavior is the way to go.

Consequently, a substantial question for you as you are with us at NCWW should be how do I accomplish this shift from controlled to autonomous.  We will be talking about this.

            b) Controlled vs Autonomous Motivation (see above)

c) Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation: the above angles into motivation have to do with the stimulus for the motivation. The extrinsic vs intrinsic angle into motivation has to do with the timing of the payoff for engaging in the motivation. This is extremely important when it comes to immediacy – with motivations that payoff immediately often being favored over ones that won’t payoff for quite some time.

1, Extrinsic motivation: The payoff results from engaging in the behavior   - it is the outcome that is sought.

2. Intrinsic motivation: The payoff is inherent – is intrinsic – to the behavior. The payoff is in getting to do the behavior.

We will be talking a great deal about this distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because (as I’ve explained in the case of the autonomous motivations) autonomous extrinsic motivation is far more sustainable than controlled extrinsic motivation. We will also be talking about it because the richer your regard for the extrinsic motivation, the more likely you can more quickly detect satisfying payoff in meaningful ways as you engage in it.