“I want to lose 15 pounds”. We’ve all set this goal at least once in our lives, right?
And for some reason, we all have seen different results. Why?
Well, the answer to this question lies in understanding your WHY behind this goal (pun intended haha). WHY did you set this goal in the first place? What drives you? What MOTIVATES you?
Because not all types of motivation are created equal. And the strongest motivation does not always mean the best.
In this episode, I am diving deep into the different types of motivation, and how they influence your chances of success, as well as your overall wellbeing.
So if this is something you are interested in, then keep on listening!
In the last episode, we started talking about different types of goals and how are they not the same, and how you can tell whether you will actually succeed by just looking at how you set your goals the way you set your goals. And today I would like to continue talking about the same topic. I would like to talk about probably the most important aspect of goal setting.
It is the motivation behind the goal.
Not only different types of motivation can influence your chances of succeeding and actually achieving this goal, but also different types of motivation will influence whether you feel good about yourself once you achieve this goal and whether your overall well-being will increase, improve, or actually decrease once you achieve this goal. So let’s dive right into it.
Goal setting: Weight loss
I would like to start by just taking a very simple goal as an example: weight loss goal.
We’ve all set this goal for ourselves many times. I have personally set this goal for myself to lose weight probably at least 10 times in my life. So I think it’s probably one of the most common goals people set. That’s why I would like to really break it down.
Let’s say you set a goal for yourself saying I want to lose 15 pounds and let’s see why potentially we could have set this goal. Let’s look at different scenarios.
Comparison and gaslighting
Scenario number one: you have set this goal for yourself because you see all these pictures, all these movies with these fit looking women and you just want to be like them. You just feel like you are fat, you don’t fit in that club, and when you go to the clothing store and you see all the mannequins that also have this perfect body shape you just feel so bad. So terrible. You want to be like all these women in all these magazines and in all these movies. That’s why you want to lose weight.
If we take it further, maybe your spouse just tells you that you are fat and that you need to lose some weight. This is actually terrible and I wish none of us would ever hear something like that from our spouses. But I actually knew a girl, she wasn’t my big friend but she was my Facebook friend in a way, and she was funny and smart and successful and beautiful and she had her own business, She actually started her business with her husband. I always like to follow her on Facebook and I didn’t even realize that something was going wrong in her life until a few years later, she actually broke up with her husband and she told those terrible stories that she was in this toxic relationship with him.
He ended up being just a gaslighter and throughout all those years of marriage, he was continuously ruining and destroying her self-confidence. He kept telling her that she is nothing, that she is stupid, that she is fat, and that the only reason she’s even on this earth is because of him. It was terrible! Thank god she got out of that relationship but it took her years of therapy to actually come back to being her real self. So, unfortunately it does happen.
One of the things that he kept telling her was that she was fat even though she clearly wasn’t. She looked great but sometimes we just hear these opinions from people who we love, people who we value, and we just start believing that that is true. I wish that wasn’t true.
Maybe this is what’s happening in your life. You get these hints from somebody you love and they say, “Yeah, maybe it would be good if you lost another 10 or 15 pounds. Maybe you would look better.” So that’s scenario number one.
A quick fix
Scenario number two. Let’s say you have a vacation coming up in six months in the summer and last year you bought a beautiful bikini that somehow you just didn’t measure your size right, so this bikini doesn’t really fit you right now. But you would kill to be able to wear it on this vacation in six months, so you just want to lose this weight in order for this bikini to fit, right?
Maybe an alternative scenario is you have some health condition, let’s say some heart condition, and you went to see your doctor and they said that in order for you to reduce the risk of a heart attack you need to lose 15 pounds. That’s why you set this goal for yourself.
The last scenario – you set this goal because you actually love exercising. You are very active and for you, it’s just fun to have some number in mind, you like challenging yourself and it’s just something that you will be excited to work towards, Something that you will be able to measure your success towards. That’s why you just throw it down. I want to lose pounds.
Now that we have come up with these multiple scenarios, let’s ask a couple of questions.
First, which of the motivations do you think is the strongest?
Out of all of those scenarios, try to think which one would really force you most to work on this goal. All of them can actually be pretty strong, but surprisingly you might realize that scenario when your spouse tells you that you are fat and that they will break up with you if you don’t lose weight, that might be the strongest. It might be the most forceful, it might mean that you actually get up and you go to the gym even though you hate it, but you really do it every day because you feel like if they do break up with you, it’s going to be the just end of your life. So you can’t let that happen.
But let me ask you another question now:
Which of those motivations do you think is the healthiest?
Which one do you think is the one that promotes the best well-being and actually helps you create the life where you feel good about yourself?
It’s definitely not the scenario when your spouse tells you that you’re fat, right? It’s probably the one when you already love exercising and you set this goal just because you love the process and it’s a challenge that you want for yourself. It’s a challenge that you’re ready to accept and you enjoy embracing that challenge and overcoming that challenge.
Find the right motivation for YOU
Here is why we discuss these few scenarios. We’re going to come back to them later in this episode because I want to keep referring to those, but here’s what’s most important:
It’s not whether your motivation is the strongest. It’s whether it’s the right motivation.
It’s whether it’s the motivation that is healthy and that will actually promote your well-being, promote your self-confidence, that will help you build up your self-esteem. Versus the one that will actually destroy it. Destroy it to the ground. So not all types of motivation are created equal and it’s not about whether it’s strong or not. It’s about whether it’s good motivation.
That comes down to 2 questions:
Are you driven by the internal motivation or the external one?
Do you actually enjoy the process of working on this goal, or do you mostly work for the outcome?
Let’s break both of these down right now. What is external motivation versus internal motivation? As you probably understand, it basically is, where does the driver come from? With external motivation, the driver clearly comes from the outside. It’s some external pressure or some external force. It’s somebody telling you something, and it’s you trying to comply with some standards or trying to avoid some fear. Avoid some judgment, avoid some rejection or punishment. Maybe it’s somebody promised you a reward and you’re working for this reward because that reward will mean you’re in the club.
Maybe you’re seeking somebody’s approval or you’re seeking your own approval. Maybe you have this belief that you are only good if you have this, if you achieve this. This is called conditional self-esteem by the way, so you keep saying to yourself, “I’m only worthy if I do this. If I don’t, I’m not.” That might be the reason. Maybe you’re trying to create or maintain some self-image. You’re trying to create that image of being that woman from the magazine pictures or the movie star and you want to be like those women. You want to feel like you have this image like you are those women.
One of the signs that you are trapped in this situation is that you feel like you have to please people, say yes to people more often than you want to. If that’s happening to you then it’s likely that you are being a victim of this external motivation.
What is really important to understand is you can be very highly motivated here. You can work for these goals with all the strength, all the passion that you have, but you won’t feel good at the end. You won’t feel satisfied. It won’t help you create the good level of well-being, it won’t help you build up your confidence or your self-esteem. It will actually be the opposite. That’s why it’s really important to know if you’re trapped in this external motivation If you’re really doing something because of this pressure or force or just trying to feed into society norms or meet other people’s expectations.
It is also when you feel like you have to keep things under control. It is when you have this fear that if you don’t have these things under control, if you let it go then things will just fail because again, to you that means you failed. Then it comes back to all this judgment, all this fear and rejection. That’s external motivation.
Versus internal motivation when you truly value the outcome. You know that if you work on this goal it will help you create the meaningful, valuable life where you feel good, fulfilled, and satisfied. Where you feel good about yourself and when you build up your self-confidence.
So for example, if we come back to the weight loss goal in the scenarios that we discussed, the first two are clearly the external motivation. If you are influenced by the magazines or Facebook or Instagram pictures or movies and you just want to be like all these women who have perfect bodies, then it’s clearly external motivation for you.
If you do this because your spouse tells you that it would be good if you lost some weight, then it’s clear external motivation. Honestly, in this case, potentially you don’t even have to lose any weight. Maybe you’re already in great shape. You just convinced yourself or somebody convinced you that you have to do it. That’s why you’re doing this.
At the same time, if for example, you know that you have a health condition and you really want to live a long life, you want to grow old and see your grandchildren and you follow the doctor’s advice and you want to lose a few pounds, then it is an internal motivation. You know why you’re doing this. You value the reason and it is important to you. You want to live a long life, so you know why exactly you are doing this because you know that it’s going to help you create the life that you want to believe in. This is very good internal motivation.
Of course, if you just love exercising, being active, and you love challenging yourself and setting this goal, it’s just another exciting challenge for yourself, it’s also great internal motivation.
The tricky one actually is if you have a vacation coming up and you want to fit in that beautiful bikini that you bought. You might think whether it’s internal or external. We can debate about this, but I think in my opinion, it’s more towards external motivation still, even though you clearly value the outcome but this outcome is not about long-term fulfillment or creating some deep meaning in your life. It’s more about, again, potentially creating that self-image of being fit.
Let’s be honest, why do you really want to do this?
Because you want to take a ton of selfies that you will then post on so on social media, right?
Again, let’s just admit it between ourselves. So, I think the question here would be if you didn’t have social media, if you didn’t have anybody to show these photos to, would you still want to do it?
If you went to the beach where nobody was there. Nobody could see you wearing that bikini. Would you still do it?
If the answer is yes then go for it. Then it means you have the real true internal desire to do this because it will actually make you feel good. But if you really want to do this just to show this to somebody or to prove this to somebody then it’s more external motivation for you.
Internal OR External – you be the judge
Let’s take another example, you set a goal for yourself that you want to start your own business. There is just so much hype right now around quitting your 9 to 5 job and starting your own business. We all have this entrepreneurial mindset now and with the internet it has become so much easier to start your own business. Especially with covid, many people were forced to come up with something new and just become creative which is great. I’m amazed to see how much creativity has been promoted in the last few years and this is wonderful, but if you set this goal for yourself, if you hate your current job and you say, “Okay, I want to start my business because I hate my job,” try to understand what is really driving you here.
Again, maybe you just see that image of successful entrepreneurs who show you all these pictures, how they work only four hours a day or three days a week and they make millions and you want that lifestyle. But they might actually not show you the truth or you might have to go through several years of hustle to get there and maybe that’s not really what you want.
Maybe you just want more freedom.
Maybe you want better boundaries and you don’t have those boundaries with your current job.
If that is the case, maybe what you could do is try to establish those boundaries in your current job. Maybe you’ll learn some new skill, maybe get a promotion, because if you don’t address those questions and if you just go right into starting your own business, you might end up hating your own business because you will end up working more, getting paid less, and being all frustrated about it. So just be careful about it. Really try to understand what is really driving you here.
But if it’s just your desire to share something with the world and help other people and you know deep inside yourself that you have this gift, this talent that can help other people, then go for it! Then it’s an absolutely clear internal motivation and you should definitely go for it.
Process goals vs. Outcome goals
Now I think it’s pretty much clear what external versus internal means, right? But it doesn’t stop there.
The second question that we should address is:
Do you enjoy the process or do you work mostly for the outcome?
This is pretty simple, so the outcome-based goals are the goals when you’re just trying to achieve the specific outcome, right? While if you set the goal because you just love the process and it’s called the process goal then you just set this goal purely for this process.
You want to learn something, you want to master some new skills and it’s not about the destination for you, it’s about the process itself. Again if we go back to the original weight loss example, it’s clear that if you set this goal about losing 15 pounds because you love exercising and you just want to have some goal in front of you to kind of help you stay focused and help you stay energized, but you still enjoy the process, that is a process goal. You already love the process.
But if you do it because you want to see that decreased number on the scales for one reason or another, then it’s clearly the outcome goal. The outcome goals, on the one hand, can be easier to set because they are more measurable usually if you have an outcome in mind, it’s already usually pretty much measurable. You know what exactly you want to achieve and you will know when you have achieved it. So it might be easier to set this goal and actually to work towards this goal.
On the other hand, if you only work for the outcome you might not even get there because the process will be just so unexciting. You will hate the process so much that you will never achieve that result. This is why it is important to go back to the first question because let’s take as an example, the health condition that you have and your doctor telling you that you need to lose some weight. You don’t necessarily like the process of exercising but you value the result so much because again, you want to live a long life, you don’t want to have a heart attack. You will do whatever it takes to not have it. So going to the gym a couple of times a week or going for walks or for runs seems like a very decent price for you to pay if you want to live a good healthy life, right? So you will do it.
But maybe if you just want to wear that bikini it might not be a good enough motivation for you. So maybe you will stick to going to the gym for a week or maybe even a month but then you will sleep just because it’s not deep enough in you. You don’t truly value the result in this case.
Can you tell the difference?
Let’s just take another example, let’s say you want to learn another language. Let’s say you want to learn French and maybe you want to move to Montreal, so you need to go to college in Montreal so you have to get good grades in French. Again you don’t like the language itself but maybe that’s where your family is moving so you have no other choice but to go to college there so you have to learn this language and you have to go get good grades.
Versus you love France. You love French culture. You’ve been to this country multiple times and you are even thinking about buying a condo in Paris or somewhere on Con de Jure and you want to be able to experience this country more authentically. You love the language itself, you love how it sounds, and you want to be able to talk to people in their native language. You want to be able to master it.
Which one do you think is which?
I think it’s pretty clear that working for the grades is an outcome goal while trying to learn a language because you love this language is the process goal because you really enjoy the process. When you really enjoy the process you have much higher chances of success because you don’t really work for that outcome that might happen or might not, sometime in the future. You truly love the moment of doing it now. Whenever you do it now it already brings you that feeling of fulfillment of satisfaction. You know that you’re doing something meaningful. It energizes you, it lights you up, you wake up in the morning looking forward to it. You have much higher chances of success in this case.
So here is what’s important now that we have covered these two questions. Once you have a goal that you truly value deeply inside yourself, you know that it’s coming from your heart, and if you also love the process of working on this goal, then nothing will stop you. Then this goal is the perfect goal for you.
Of course, let’s be honest, there will always be goals that you need to work on. You can’t just do everything that you want in your life and it’s impossible to be loving every minute of our lives. There are always things that we have to do because we live in a society, we have families, all other constraints.
Life = balanced goals
But it’s about balance.
It’s about how you see your life. It’s about your perception of your life and whether you have more of those goals that are really lighting you up and really empowering you that have that internal motivation and where you do love the process. Versus goals or tasks or activities that you have to do. Actually, even by looking at how you set your goal, you can already tell a lot about the motivation.
If you frame your goal in a way, I want to do something, then it’s a very good sign because it means at the very minimum you value the outcome, but potentially you also like the process itself. So that’s a great start. If you wrote down your goal and you see that it starts with I need to or I should or I have to, then it’s probably, at the very minimum, you don’t like doing it. Now you need to dive deeper into do you actually value the outcome, where that motivation is coming from, and whether it’s internal or external?
If you realize that the goal that you set for yourself comes from I have to or I need to and you really don’t value, truly deeply, the meaning of this goal, you don’t believe that it helps you build fulfillment, then maybe you need to set this goal aside. Maybe you need to confront it and not even work on it. If you don’t feel enough strength in yourself to do it, then again, put it aside and find more of the goals that will empower you. Find more of the goals where at least you know why you’re doing it. You really value the outcome and ideally, you also enjoy the process.
This is where you will build that confidence, that self-esteem that will eventually help you confront those bad goals.
Eventually, that will help you create the proper balance of your life so that you have more things in your life that you enjoy doing, that are valuable, that are meaningful, and that really help you create that empowered living. It helps you balance those things that you still have to do. If there is something that you know that you have to do, try to find value in it.
For example, if you hate doing the dishes and you have to do it, instead of just hating the process, try to come up with something valuable like you do this for your family and you value doing something for your family. You value living in a clean house, in a tidy house and maybe go from there. Start from there. But again, it all comes back to understanding your why. Whether you are doing this because you know it’s going to bring you something good or because of some external pressure, some fear. Maybe you’re seeking somebody’s approval or you have these beliefs about yourself that you need to maintain or you need to maintain that self-image.
Also, ask yourself whether you work purely for the outcome or you like the process.
If you work purely for the outcome, see if you can actually do something to start enjoying the process more. Try to always shoot for that sweet spot where you know why you do this because you know it’s going to make your life better, more meaningful, more fulfilling. You know it’s going help you build up that self-esteem and you also love the process because this is where you will achieve the biggest results and you will do it with no control, no pressure, no fear required.
Spend some time today really thinking about your goals and why you set them. See if you can shift things around or just get rid of some goals that are not good goals for you.