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Why motivation doesn’t work

By | Food for thought, motivation, Strongman, Tip Tuesdays | No Comments

Why motivation doesn’t work

So we have been looking on Pinterest for motivation. Especially motivational quotes to get yourself out of bed, hopefully to feel inspired. Get out of bed, pack your bags and hopefully hit the gym or the pool. Then you tell yourself, I’m going to rest a wee bit more… Then you find yourself lying in bed scrolling down on Instagram (IG) for more motivational posts on #fitspo or #fitspiration #fitfam or whatever hashtags that they use.

The more you scroll down the more you use your data and then you start comparing yourself to these picture perfect IG models. Some weird exercise or modified “hip thrusters” for them booty gains or you start creeping on some sporting personalities. Look at their technique in the deadlift and you start telling yourself; “I’m going to lift 800lbs one day!”.

Then you continue scrolling down and double tapping and liking more posts on IG only to realise that you have just spent thirty to forty-five minutes doing nothing productive other than having a finger work out by liking someone posts. Then you go into this self-depreciating mode where you start comparing yourself to the lifts or physique of the athletes or models on IG. “I wish I had a body like that!”. Then self-doubts creeps in again, as you lie in bed and then contemplate on life mysteries, why do I have bad genetic, why am I so unmotivated.

So here is the thing… Motivation is really something positive, it helps you light that fire. It also gives you that kick in the butt that you need. But sadly motivation doesn’t last very long or have much hoped for longevity. Motivation is like starting a fire, you need fire to keep you warm especially if you cold or hungry and how you keep that fire going is constantly feeding the fire more fuel or wood. This constant act or habit of adding wood to the fire to keep the fire going. But what happens when you run out of wood, the answer is pretty obvious. You find more wood to keep feed the fire to keep the fire going. Now enough with the metaphorical stories and let me just summarise that into bite size pieces.

Yes, you need motivation, but motivation doesn’t last very long, it’s probably going to last you for a good 6 to 8 hours at most after you watch a motivational video. You need to form a habit, a consistent habit (Which I will share more later in this article) and this consistent habit needs to be maintain (adding wood to the fire). So what are the habits you ask? It gets you into routine… Wake up a certain time, eat breakfast a fixed time, what you eat for breakfast may vary but I can eat the same thing every single day and be happy.

Train at a certain fixed time, go to work at a certain time. Studies have shown that it takes approximately 21 days to form a habit. Exercising or being active is actually a privilege. Some of you may argue… “Oh wow… it’s so boring, how can I live my life being so mundane and boring!”. But here are my counter arguments

  • Being healthy is not mundane
  • Not having any health problems is not mundane
  • Not paying excessive hospital bills is not mundane
  • Able to walk on my own and NOT in a wheelchair is not mundane
  • Able to work and earn a living is not mundane

Yeah you probably get the point… Keeping yourself healthy is definitely not mundane or boring. Being bed ridden with health issues is going to be worse. I’ve had friends whom at 45 years old had to undergo heart surgery because of the lifestyle choices that they made. So enough of me being the angry sod who is the bearer of bad news. Let’s get down to what really needs to happen in order to turn that motivation into action plans that work.


Start with a GOAL in mind and plan

A few years back, I had a tertiary student whom approach me and asked me “How did I get so strong?” and “How do I stay motivated to constantly train day in and day out”. My response was this “I’m not motivated to do anything that I don’t want to do. I start by committing myself to a goal which is to do this or this competition in a year”. The key operative words here are committing and goal, these are the two essentials things you need. In 2016 the goal for myself was to finish top 10 in the Arnolds Amateur Strongman Classic in South Africa and to finish the year with a 400kg (880lbs) axle deadlift. The Arnolds have the reputation of being ‘athlete breakers’ because the competitions are so heavy that it sometimes become career breakers.

So the Goal was competing in the Arnolds, but goals alone are not enough. You need a game plan and method. First thing I fixed was my nutrition by working with a nutritionist to fix my “seefood diet” and I worked with a pro strongman to fix my training. I also read up to increase my knowledge on how programming works and what would work for me. It became a trial and error and I now finally have a formula that works for me. Now I also had a countdown app on my phone to remind me 16 weeks out, 12 weeks out, 8 weeks out 4 weeks out, 21 days out and you get the idea. This constant reminder on my phone kept reminding me that whatever work that goes into competition prep is essential for a respectable finish.

And when competition day came… I was mentally and physically prepared. Because once you know when you put in the work and effort, everything will fall into place (in theory anyway). I broke my finger in the first event and that hampered the rest of the day. But being the stubborn mule that I was I still competed and attempted in all the events finished 6th place on Day 1 with a broken finger, and day 2 tore my calf on the yoke in the morning but I still managed to finish 10th place after 2 days of competition. Yes, on hindsight I should have better judgement but I didn’t fly 20 hours to be a cheerleader or a spectator and I still need to fulfil my commitment to my goal. In summary

  1. Commit to a goal
  2. Design out a plan that works
  3. Seek help for areas that you are weak in (mine was nutrition)
  4. Remind yourself constantly
  5. Commit to giving your best even when it’s not favourable (broken finger/torn calf didn’t kill anyone…. But did you die???)


When we speak about consistency, what exactly is consistency. Lets put that in the sporting context… “It is the ability to repeat the same purposeful behaviours day in and day out to achieve a goal that you have committed to”. That’s my definition anyway, yours may be different but consistency is key. A few years back I spoke to one of the guys that train in the gym I own. He lost a whopping 20 to 25kg in body weight from a burly and chubby 105kg to present day body weight of 75kg. I already knew the answer to his weight loss but I just asked him point blank “Fauzie, what’s your secret to losing weight?”.

His reply was simple… “Initially I just came for fun to the gym because training was different from other gyms but the more frequent I came, the healthier I feel. It was 3 days a week, then it became 5 days a week for just 1 hour to train. After 6 months I saw a different person in the mirror, I had more energy, I feel stronger and most importantly I feel healthy. I really have no secret formula”. At this point… I interjected, there was a secret formula to begin with all you did was you were consistent in your behaviours. I think this speaks more in volume than anything else.

Being able to deadlift 400kg on competition day at Static Monsters 2016 is no miracle of God or when the planetary systems aligned in my favour. But it was the consistent and purposeful behaviours that I’ve committed myself to daily. Wake up early daily, have breakfast and put in the work repeatedly hours in the gym day in day out, some days I had double training sessions. It was tough. There are days that I woke up broken, sore and I have just nothing left but this are the days that make you a better athlete. You can have all the big dreams in the world but if your behaviours are not consistent and purposeful nothing is going to happen.

The concept of consistency in a nutshell is the accumulation of your work and effort, daily be it training, active recovery, eating, sleeping and injury management on day 1, 16 weeks out up to competition day needs to be consistent. Success does not happen overnight, it is an accumulation of progress over a period of time. So lets quickly summarize that

  1. Commit to your set goal
  2. Fail to plan, Plan to fail
  3. Set a routine (eating, training, work, sleeping) and commit
  4. Always be consistent and purposeful in your behaviours
  5. Routines are mundane, mundane = results! Remember that!

It’s not the routine, it’s a goal… every single effort, every single rep, every single training day, every spoonful of food, every meal and every night worth of sleep. It all adds up! Be consistent

In the meantime, train hard, stay injury and always lift strong!