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Finding Workout Motivation: How to Stop Saying No to Your Goals

Finding Workout Motivation: How to Stop Saying No to Your Goals

Written by
May 12, 2016
Updated May 15, 2020
Category: Fitness

So you want to be the hero of your own movie, eh? Trying to find your workout motivation through Joe Rogan?


You’ve decided the time for talk and half-measures is over, and you’re finally ready to take action: you want to to lose fat, pack on some muscle, and look in the mirror with pride.

Gladiator, I salute you.

Now, my first question is this: What’s different this time?

Be honest: how many times in the past have you said “I’m finally ready to get in shape” only to flame out weeks later when life gets in the way? I love that you’ve chosen to step into the arena again, to retake control of your life, but we need to talk about what will make this attempt different from all the others.

After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it starts by understanding how we are going to win with three key truths about us as humans:

● We are creatures of habit.
● We are products of our environment.
● We are the average of the people we associate most with.

Build a Habit System to Win

I read a great quote on Quora when somebody asked a question regarding their waning motivation:

The number one response? “F*** workout motivation, cultivate discipline.”

If you’ve watched that video above with Joe Rogan, you’re probably pretty freaking motivated right now. And motivation is a great place to start: it’s why the gym is so crowded for the first two weeks of January – everybody is motivated to get in shape! Motivation can get you started.

However, motivation is fleeting and unreliable – this is why the gym is a ghost town come February. Once motivation disappears, it’s very tough to get ourselves to exercise instead of sleeping in/playing more video games/eating another pint of ice cream.

If you want to get in shape and you’re serious about it this time, stop relying on motivation and instead focus on building a system that sets you up to win. If you only exercise when you’re motivated, or only went for a run when you felt like it, or only ate healthy when it was convenient, it’ll never happen!

It starts with a system. Systems don’t rely on motivation, willpower, or inspiration to operate once they’re set up. They are emotion-free. So let’s put a workout system in place in your life.

Let’s say you want to build a habit of daily exercise. Make this a very small hurdle that you can jump over every day. Don’t say, “I’m gonna go to the gym for an hour every day”. This is a massive hurdle to overcome. Instead, make it something that can be done in 5-10 minutes every morning.

Our goal here is to build something into your life permanently. We’re not doing 90-day “get-fit-quick” or 30-day detoxes. We’re after something like “get strong and healthy forever.”

Here’s an example: “I will do 3 circuits of 10 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, and 10 squats every morning when I wake up.” Or, “I will go for a 10-minute walk when I wake up.”

Remember, we want lifelong success. Building a 5-minute daily habit that you can do is indefinitely better than a 60-minute habit that you give up on after 2 weeks. I want you to be a lifelong badass.

Change Your Environment

Can't Find Your Workout Motivation? Quit Feeding Your Doubts

When we’re building new habits, our bodies and brains will always look for the path of least resistance. The good news is that when you build a new habit, your brain will learn to expend less and less energy to complete that task.

You are currently composed of a collection of automatic habits that you’ve built up over years and years and years… both the good and bad.

Like how driving a car has become an automatic, mindless activity for you, so too might be coming home from work every day and plopping down on the couch to drink a beer and watch sports or play video games. You’ve done it so many times that it’s now an automatic activity.

Changing your environment can get you a huge portion of the way to “exercising is now so easy, it’s mindless!”

We need to make two key adjustments to our environment:

● Decrease the number of steps between you and the new good habit you’re looking to build.
● Increase the number of steps between you and the old bad habit you’re looking to break.

Sounds too simple to be true, right? In addition to making your habit so small that it can be completely daily, we’re going to hack your environment so it becomes almost automatic for you to complete.

Let’s look at both of those things individually:

Decrease steps between you and the healthy habit you want to build:

● Eat healthier: prepare all of your meals on Sunday, so that every day at work you can simply heat up a quick healthy meal for lunch.
● Run every morning: sleep in your workout clothes and put your alarm clock across the room so you HAVE to get out of bed to turn it off.
● Go to the gym: pack your gym bag the night before and put it in front of your door, so you never forget it on the way to work.
● Do more pull-ups: Buy door frame pull-up bars and put them in each doorway in your house. Every time you walk through a door, you have to do 1 pull-up.

Increase the steps between you and a bad habit you want to break:

● Watch too much TV: cancel your cable! Unsubscribe from netflix. Unplug your television. Trust me, life will go on.
● Eat too much junk food: get it out of your house. Throw it all away.
● Eat too many snacks at work: don’t keep junk food in your desk, and avoid Susan from accounting who keeps candy on her desk to get people to talk to her.
● Eat too much fast food: Change your route home from work so you don’t drive past Fast Food restaurants and you won’t be tempted.

In short, understand that your body and brain WANT to be lazy, and use that laziness to your advantage!

Focus On Big Wins

Now we’re talking. Like Neo in The Matrix, you’re beginning to believe.

Are you familiar with the Pareto Principle? It’s a concept that 80% of your success will come from 20% of your decisions. You’ll notice up to this point I haven’t talked about bicep curls, supplements, or super secret tactics to sculpting your calves or hitting all three heads of your triceps.

Remember, we’re lazy and our brains want to be lazy. So rather than focusing on the tiny details, we’re going to use that information to focus on the 20% of our decisions that will result in 80% of our success.

Generally speaking, 20% of your day will revolve around eating decisions. What to eat for lunch, to snack or not to snack, what to have for dinner, and so on. And yup, believe it or not, how you eat will account for 80% of your success or failure when it comes to getting in shape. So focus on as many of these big wins possible:

● Every meal should have a protein source: bacon and eggs for breakfast, salmon for lunch, chicken or grass-fed steak for dinner.
● Every meal should have 1-2 servings of vegetables: add spinach to your omelet, make your lunch salmon on top of a salad, and add asparagus or broccoli with your dinner.
● Cut back on sugar and processed carbs. Soda, juice, and other liquid calories are ruining your waistline. Get rid of them.
● Don’t eat like an idiot. You know what healthy food is. You know what junk food is. Ask yourself with every food decision: “is this getting me closer to my goal?” If the answer is no, eat it rarely.

Once you’ve developed a nutrition strategy that you can live with (big wins), you can look at big wins for your workouts too once you’ve developed a solid habit of daily exercise.

Especially if you are a beginner to working out, focusing on the big movements is the best way to minimize your time at the gym and maximize your result: squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, and overhead presses.

Get REALLY strong at those three exercises, and combine it with a Big Win diet strategy, and you’ll be on a path to a dramatically healthier life.

Who’s In Your Army?

Can't Find Your Workout Motivation? Quit Feeding Your Doubts

I’m going to leave you with one final thought – you’re not alone in this journey. Just like the heroes in our favorite stories always have a sidekick or group of allies helping them out, so too should you!

In other words, you are the average of your allies. If you hang out with lazy people that eat like shit and don’t exercise, you are being subtly (or not so subtly) influenced every day to drift closer to their lifestyle.

They might mock you for picking a salad at dinner, or yell at you to come meet them at the bar every day after work. They mean well, but they also just want to pull you back down so that they can avoid changing themselves.

Conversely, if you hang out with people, stronger, healthier, and happier than you, you’ll be influenced to be more like them whether you realize it or not.

I have a coach that I have to report to, friends that keep me accountable, and a private facebook group of people supporting me to live a better life.

Sure, I still have other friends that just want to play video games and don’t care about eating better. I try to minimize my time with them or make sure I also spend enough time, online and in the real world, with people that are influencing me to be a better person too.

It sounds cool to be “an army of one,” but why do it if you don’t have to? Surround yourself with people that want you to succeed and make you better.

Putting it All Together

There’s a lot of info above, so let’s go ahead and break it down into simple actionable steps you can take today.

Understand that your environment is influencing you:

● Add ONE step between you and a bad habit – unplug the TV, throw away your junk food, give your playstation for a friend.
● Decrease ONE step between you and a good habit – sleep in your workout clothes, cook all meals for the week on sunday, pack your gym bag the night before.

Understand that big wins are more efficient and easier to implement:

● Make an adjustment to your diet – cut out soda or cut back significantly. Swap out veggies for fries when you go out to dinner.
● Focus on compound movements at the gym: get strong with squats, push-ups, and pull-ups. Keep it simple.

Don’t leave it up to motivation or willpower:

● Build systems that keep you going even when you don’t want to.

Recruit allies to help you on your cause:

● Minimize time spent with people who want to pull you back to your old life.
● Maximize time spent with people who positively influence you on your journey.

Remember, this is a lifelong journey. No detoxes, no cleanses, no 90-day sprints. We want lifelong success, daily improved strength, and momentum working for us.

Good luck, soldier.

Feed Your Goals

Starve Your Doubts

Find Your Workout Motivation

Finding Workout Motivation: How to Stop Saying No to Your Goals

Steve Kamb is the author of the recently released Level Up Your Life: How to unlock adventure and happiness by becoming the hero of your own story. He’s also the creator of, a worldwide community of averages joes and jills looking to live better lives. He hopes to one day become Captain America.
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