When you decide to start going to the gym, do you do it because you have to, or because you enjoy working out? If you're just forcing yourself to do it for the reward, it may be counterproductive.
Photo by W_Minshull.
As advice site Afford Anything explains, there are two types of motivation you can use to reach a goal: Intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is when you hate doing something, but you have an external reason to do it. You don't like working out, but you want to lose weight, so you force yourself to grudgingly go through the motions. Intrinsic motivation, however, occurs when you go to the gym simply because you enjoy the thrill of working out:
Research shows (and workout enthusiasts know) that exercise is brimming with inherent benefits: lower stress, higher endorphins, better sleep. But if you're preoccupied with the scale, you might overlook these intrinsic benefits. You've re-framed exercise as a means to an end, a delivery vehicle for results, rather than as an activity meant to be enjoyed for its own sake.
You've approached it with a results-based mindset ("what can I get from this?"), rather than an intrinsically-motivated mindset ("do I enjoy this?") And ironically, you're less likely to achieve and maintain results in the long-term.
Intrinsic motivation has a better chance of changing your habits because you don't need a justification to work on your habit. You don't need a reason to eat healthy foods if you have healthy meals that you find delicious. You don't need an app to remind you to workout if you're looking forward to it every day.
Extrinsic motivation can also be counterproductive. As the site explains, if you decide to "reward" yourself for doing something productive with something fun, you reinforce that the productive thing isn't fun. Instead, teach yourself that working on your projects or being healthy is worthwhile in itself, regardless of the external reward.
What if We Gave Up on Every Goal? (Seriously?) [Afford Anything]