How to Find Motivation and 7 Ways to Keep It

October 5, 2016

Motivation can be found intrinsically or extrinsically.  Intrinsic motivation is gained in performing an act without any tangible rewards.  In other words, intrinsic motivation is engaging in an activity for its own sake. “Extrinsic motivation is defined as engaging in an activity to obtain an outcome that is separable from the activity itself.” What motivates most dieters is the number on the scale.

What does that number really tell us?  Undergoing weight loss surgery can result in significant physical weight loss; however, very few individuals reach that ideal BMI and live at that weight long-term. I am an advocate for non-scale victories along with finding intrinsic value and motivation in activities that bring you closer to who you really are. I was a dieter. I was obsessed with the number on the scale. I made that number more valuable than my overall health and wellness.

There were mornings, afternoons, and times after my body was ill measuring my worth based upon a number flashed by a digital scale. It was then that my focus supported extrinsic rewards such as a number on a scale or winning weight loss competitions that had no chance of winning because I was no longer living in a large body.  Being so externally focused created a false sense of being okay with the person I was in that moment of my life.

Today, I focus on goals that are connected to personal growth, relationships, community, and overall health (mental, spiritual, and physical).  Other extrinsic motivations include money, popularity, body size/weight/image, material items, cars, and name brand clothes, etc.

For me, I had no clue who I was or the creative talents that existed within me when I focused solely on external rewards. It is highly encouraged that as you continue on the journey after weight loss surgery, take time to check in with yourself. Ultimately, you decide if what motivates you is discovered within or outside of you.

7 Ways to Keep Motivation

  1. Never stop learning. Whether you learn by hearing, seeing, reading, writing, or touch; you have to keep growing yourself. You must do everything to be the best you. Listen to a motivational speaker. Watch a motivational YouTube video. Read a book that inspires you to challenge your thoughts and beliefs. Share your story; inspire just one person and you’ll change a life.
  2. Become an investigator of you. When was the last time you looked yourself in the mirror and told yourself the truth? The truth behind weight gain. The truth behind obesity. The truth behind your unsatisfying life. I think somewhere along the way we get trapped in the quicksand of lies or excuses and, if we are not careful, those lies form our identities.  It is okay not to want to do some things; however, when not doing these things keeps you from feeling whole, self-sabotaging occurs.
  3. Do something you’ve never done before. It is time to push yourself out of the comfort of your own mental limitations. What will you do with less weight on your body? Will you run or hike again? Walk downtown holding your husband's hand? Tailgate with friends? Get on the Harley and feel the wind again? Play with the grandkids? Will you dance again? The body experiences exciting stress when something new about to happen.  Stay connected with that feeling by adding variety to your life. Don’t get comfortable; old habits have a way a sneaking back into our lives.
  4. Fall in love again. Love is everything! It is likely that your relationships will be positively or negatively impacted by weight loss. For this article, let’s focus on the positive. Become your wife’s boyfriend again and I guarantee intimacy will improve. For all the singles out there, focus on your relationship with yourself, nature, and pets. Maybe it is time to bring love to your life by adopting a dog. Give of your time and energy to an organization by volunteering. When we serve and help others, we help ourselves and become happier. However you decide to experience more love, know that you are worth all of it. You’re the bee’s knees!
  5. Stop waiting on a number; focus on appreciation. Chances are that the number you want to see may not be exactly right or the number on the scale is not what you think it should be before taking action. I am sure you have heard about the positive changes journaling can cause in one’s life. I’m an advocate of focused journaling. Having a gratitude journal helps diminish anxiety about the future and depression from the past because small victories can be recognized. For example, I am thankful for my heartbeat; without it I would not have life.  I am thankful for the sun that warms my skin.  I am thankful for my body not giving up on me and still carrying me through life.
  6. Set out on an adventure with a friend. Now is the time to put on your backpack and explore. Traveling with a friend or accountability partner can make the trip more fun. Explore your city’s history and State parks.  Go somewhere and get lost. Last year, I read articles about traveling with a pet and hotels that are pet-friendly. A part of me that still puts importance on the opinions of others thought, “I will look lonely or weird traveling with a dog.” I ignored the thought. For the first time last summer, I took my dog, Teddy, on a vacation and had a great time visiting a friend in the area and eating at pet-friendly restaurants.
  7. Believe that you’re enough. Today, when I think about motivation my thoughts immediately trigger emotions that cause a smile to form on my face along with peace within my heart. I am so thankful for personal growth and fifth chances to get it right. I do not need or desire a reward to treat myself with love and kindness. I do it because the reward is a life that reflects love and kindness to others. Undoubtedly, your relationship with food must change to no longer “struggle” against weight gain or obesity. Marianne Williamson writes in her book, A Course in Weight Loss, “The day will come when you simply no longer wish to hurt yourself. You will no longer want to overeat. You will be done with that, and something new will begin.”


Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. (2006). Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Goal Contents in Self-Determination Theory: Another Look at the Quality of Academic Motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41(1), 19-31.

Williamson, M. (2010). A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Inc.

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sabrina richardson


Sabrina C. Richardson, MMFT, LMFT of Intrinsic Therapy, LLC and Living Beyond The Tool, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in the State of South Carolina. She graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in Experimental Psychology and a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College.

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