Getting Motivated: Figure Out What Gets You Going

The best way to understand and ultimately enhance your motivation is to consider factors like your personality, needs, interests and goals as well as the environment in which you work out. Here are five guidelines from sports psychologist Caroline Silby to follow in your quest to get motivated.


When you seem to lack motivation, don't simply attribute it to your personality by thinking "I don't want it enough," or "I'm too lazy to exercise." Also avoid placing all the blame on the situation, like "This class is too boring," or "My instructor isn't a good motivator." In reality, low motivation results from a combination of personal and situational factors. Try focusing on changing something about yourself that you can control like your goals while also making a small environmental change like working out at different times.


Understand why you participate in physical activity. Typical motives for starting an exercise program include health factors, weight loss, fitness, self-challenge, and to feel better. Motives for continued involvement include enjoyment, organization-leadership, activity type, and social factors. It's common to have several motives for participation. Be sure to monitor your exercise motives, as they are likely to change over time.


Use what you know about yourself to select an exercise environment that fits your needs. For instance, if you enjoy the thrill of defeating an opponent join a competitive rather than recreational sports league. Also, be sure to try and find an environment that will meet your multiple needs. You may want to participate in strength and conditioning classes that are extremely challenging yet also want to have fun. When looking for a class, consider both difficulty level and whether or not you can enjoy the companionship and camaraderie of your fellow exercisers.


How you explain your successes and failures will influence your future motivation. Let's say you successfully complete an exercise program. You could attribute your success to: a) your talent b) the great instructor c) your good health d) a clean facility e) your effort level. Attributing performance results to factors under your control like ability and effort rather than to factors outside your control such as luck and task difficulty result in expectations for future success as well as feelings of pride and confidence.


To understand motivation, you must be aware of what success and failure mean to you. An outcome goal orientation means that you focus on comparing your performance with and defeating others. A task orientation means that you focus on comparing your performance with personal standards and improvement. There is evidence to suggest that the latter leads to a strong work ethic, persistence in the face of failure, optimal performance, increased enjoyment, reduced stress, improved body image, and better self-esteem.

About Caroline Silby

Caroline Silby, Ph.D., M.Ed holds a Doctorate and Master Degree of Sports Psychology from the University of Virginia. Her specialty is performance enhancement with adolescent athletes and she's worked with Olympic Champions in gymnastics and figure skating. As an elite athlete, Dr. Silby was a member of the National Figure Skating Team.

She later served on the U.S. Figure Skating Association Board of Directors and Athlete Advisory Council. Dr. Silby was appointed to the US Olympic Committee Athlete Advisory Council, Collegiate Sports Council and Finance Committee.

Currently, she assists the Women's Sports Foundation as a member of their Advisory Council and is a faculty member of both the USA Gymnastics and the US Figure Skating Association training camps. Dr. Silby's first book titled, Games Girls Play is published by St. Martin's Press. She resides in Washington, D.C. and has an active national practice.



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