Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Past Deadline: Motivated by What, Exactly?

No matter how old we get, we are always learning about ourselves, don’t you think?

Our reactions to events change depending on our age and experience. I am, for example, less likely than my four-year-old daughter to fly into a rage when I can’t get my tights to go on right because I have learned this is not the end of the world and life will continue. That said, I don’t like tights and often have many unkind things to say about them and their ilk.

Over the years I have realized I need to spend more time outdoors than I do, especially because I work from home. This fresh air and change of scenery helps prevent me from being snarly with the big, little and furry people with whom I reside. I have also learned the health of our fish tank directly (and dramatically) affects my mood. And did you know I am likely to erupt into a stinkin’ tantrum when my work e-mail goes down? This involves Dramatic Pacing About and Stomping of Feet if the kids are in the vicinity; otherwise you are likely to hear a bad word. Maybe two. Uttered loudly. I have learned that no matter how often I tell myself it’s pointless to do this and that this is the way of technology, I can’t seem to help becoming overwhelmed by the frustration of it all.

One thing I am still having trouble figuring out, though, is the changing nature of motivation, especially in the context of taking care of myself. I generally don’t need to think about motivation when it comes to doing a good job in my work. I just do it because I like to. A paycheque doesn’t hurt, but really it comes down to doing good work that makes other people happy, too.

Why, though, is it so hard to motivate myself to stay fit and eat good food?

You’d think that, as humans, we would be hard wired to take excellent care of ourselves. It might even be instinctual if you factor in survival of the fittest, species preservation, etc. So why is it that we (or I in particular) sometimes have to argue with ourselves to ensure we exercise and follow good nutrition?

I have been motivated to exercise more for a number of reasons:
1) A family history of a bunch of things I’d prefer to avoid.
2) I’d like to be around to see how my kids turn out.
3) I happen to like it – once I get into the habit of doing it, that is.

And that’s the kicker – habit. As long as I’m on the bandwagon I’m a pretty good passenger. For example, I’ve ramped up the running again after a hiatus from December through February. I’m back to the point now where I miss it if I can’t go. But if something throws me off that wagon for any length of time (as it did this winter), it’s ridiculously difficult to climb back on.

Now, if I could only get to the driver’s seat by eating better, then maybe I’d make some progress in the pound-droppage area.

Of course I know that a big part of my problem is the temptation of quick, easy, processed meals as opposed to choosing healthier whole foods that take longer to prepare but, the point is, I know that. If I know that, why can’t I just follow through with action?

Fear is a good motivator, such as being told you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure or diabetes or that you are at risk for any of these or other things, but why does it have to come down to fear for your life?

I know for sure I am no longer motivated by my Skinny Jeans. I had some vain hope of eventually fitting into those token mid-’90s-era pants that predate babies, but I now suspect I won’t ever be that svelte thing again. As a result, they were dismissed in a fit of rabid closet decluttering last week.

So now I suppose I’ll have to rely on that old faithful annual motivator: bathing suit season. [Shudder.] Wish me luck.

Published in The Perth Courier, March 25/10


mamabear said...

I was just reading your follow up comment about the decluttering. Sounds like you're doing great in the motivation department!

Congrats on the running again! I need to come up with a winter exercise plan. I hate exercise machines, but I also don't like having to bundle up for brisk walking in 20 degree weather. I need a good dance video. That's the ticket. The videos out nowadays have too many squats and body building (sculpting). I just wanna boogie.

Evenspor said...

I hear you. Why is it so hard to stay in shape?

I thought the part about your fish tank affecting your mood was funny, because my husband recently told me the state of his car affects his mood. If something's broken or loose and rattling, he's in a bad mood until it gets fixed.