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The Morality of Sugar
Finding Your Motivation
Jo Cordi's Lifestyle Series
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Autumn Goodness: Pumpkin!
Taking Stock of your Life
Cooking with Jarret Hughes
Obese In The Workplace
Reflections on a French Kid
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"Kites rise highest against the wind; not with it."
— Sir Winston Churchill
It's amazing how childhood games can mirror the journeys we take as adults.
Recently, I became mesmerized watching two children play the board game Candy
Landô. For those who don't know, Candy Landô is a true childhood classic and
is one of the first board games preschoolers can learn to play. The point of
the game is to reach your ultimate destination, the Castle.
There are two
paths you can take to the Castle — the Rainbow Trail and the Gumdrop Pass.
Like any path or journey, there are pitfalls along the way; if bad luck
strikes, you might end up in the Molasses Swamp. You can be stuck there
until you draw a card of a specific color to get you out. Sometimes you make
it three-quarters of the way along the rainbow-colored path only to be sent
back to the beginning to start all over again.
As I watched the kids play, it occurred to me that the game is a perfect
metaphor for the weight-loss journey. We all start at a beginning point,
and follow pre-determined rules (the diet plan) to move forward along a path.
Along the way, there are all sorts of sweet, sugar-laden, carb-filled
temptations to divert us off the path. Sometimes we find a shortcut, and
big weight loss comes our way (aka a whoosh to low carbers). Sometimes we
have to spend time in the Molasses Swamp (stalls and plateaus) until we get
out. Sometimes we don't make it to the castle (weight goal). Sometimes we
give up and quit.
As I watched the children play the game over and over again, I wanted to know
what it was that motivated them to keep playing. When I asked them, one said:
"I like it 'cause you get to go to a really cool castle and you have a lot
of fun getting there."
This made me think about what motivates us while on the weight loss path.
Motivation is the key to making things happen in your life, including weight
reduction. But how do you get it? How do you sustain it? What makes us
determined to get to the "Castle?"
The most obvious inspirations for dieters are extrinsic in nature — that is,
the motivation comes from outside forces or events. For instance, perhaps
you are looking to fit into an old dress for an upcoming wedding, or hoping
to become "bikini-ready" for that Caribbean cruise. Maybe your doctor gave
you the bad news that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels were too
high. Maybe it was an embarrassing or negative situation that shamed or
frightened you into action - like getting stuck in an amusement park ride
in front of hundreds of people.
This sort of external motivation is easily reinforced by rewards. Watching
the numbers on the scale decrease, fitting into a small pair of slacks, or
receiving compliments from your co-workers are all strong incentives for
staying on the weight-loss road.
But what will motivate you to continue when you the event you were originally
dieting for is over? What is going to happen when you are no longer watching
the scale go down because you have reached your goal and your clothes aren't
going to get any smaller? What will get you through those long periods of
stalls and plateaus when the rewards are few and far between? Without
long-term motivation, all can be lost.
One of the worst motivation "busters" is the dreaded plateau. It's so easy
to give up when you're doing everything right, but the reward of seeing the
scale drop isn't there. It's like getting stuck in the Molasses Swamp in
Candy Landô and wondering when (if ever) you will be released.
What you need is intrinsic or internal motivation, inspiration that can be
sustained over the long haul.
Finding the intrinsic motivation for yourself is key. Intrinsic motivation
is that which occurs for its own sake: action for which the only rewards
are the spontaneous effects that accompany it. Intrinsic motivation requires
no external supports or reinforcements to exist. Once you truly believe
in the concept of your chosen way of life and align your values with your
goals, then you have set very powerful motivation in place. Your daily
choices become a way of life, and it becomes a part of who you are and
how you identify yourself.
We need to recognize that our motivators will change over time, and our
levels of motivation will ebb and flow throughout our lifetime. Sometimes
we have to push forward even when our motivation is weak.
To find the motivation from within, focus on the act instead of the
expected outcome. Notice any improvements you make, no matter how small.
This will allow you to shift your external focus to an internal one.
We know that long-term motivation arises only when people are turned on
from within: when they are motivated by the challenge of process itself.
Intrinsic motivation comes from doing an activity solely for itself rather
than focusing on the expected outcome. It is characterized as a need to
achieve personal satisfaction and enjoyment for their own sakes. As the
little child said about the Candy Landô game — he had fun playing it!
It is when motivation is internalized and used as a source of ongoing
energy that the real benefits are attained.
What motivates you to reach the Castle?
Copyright © October 2003 Beverly Knauer and Low Carb Luxury