The Pseudoscience of Motivation

According to the main source used by Wikipedia, motivation is defined as the purpose or psychological reason for an action (1). Motivation is an inner force that is shaped to wishes, desires, and goals -to minimize pain, maximize pleasure, or to serve basic needs, such as rest, hunger, and thirst (2). After the basics, Wikipedia gets all theoretical on us. Philosophers, politicians, psychologists… all arguing about the “model” that best fits human motivation. I think that motivation, especially for something like exercise, is probably highly individualized. What motivates one person may not motivate another. Everyone needs to eat, and everyone sees a direct result from not eating. Everyone should exercise, but the results or lack thereof are harder to see, especially at first. Here are the top ten things that motivate me to work out at least four days a week.

I like to think that there are two different types of motivation. Pre and post. For example, a pre-motivation of eating would be hunger. A post-motivation of eating would be health and nutrition. I eat because I’m hungry (before). I eat to be healthy (in the future).


Post-motivations: the more common for most people

1. It changes my mood. It gives me more energy and more motivation to do other things. For example, I had a lazy weekend, which is fine. We all need one once in a while. Monday morning, my apartment was messy and I hadn’t done any cooking for the week. I had all weekend where I was lazy and unproductive. Monday afternoon, I went to CrossFit, got home at 7 PM, took a shower, and hit it head on. I cleaned the entire place, and cooked up some lunches for the rest of the week. Something about a workout just makes me get my life in order. Maybe it’s the so-called “high” I get from working out. Who knows? I just know it works.

2. I can eat more. Not worse! More. I love food, I love eating, I love cooking… the more I get to enjoy those experiences, the better.

3. I like looking good. Since I’ve been going to CrossFit, my arms have toned up a lot. I didn’t think my arms looked bad before, but they look awesome now. I like showing that off by wearing tank tops (in appropriate places, of course). Also, I’m ready for any impromptu vacations or swim suit moments.

4. Science is a frustrating profession most of the time. I’m also generally an introverted person, so the stress of the day can really get to me. Exercising relieves that stress. I’m not much of a yogi, but running can be almost like meditation. If I have a particularly stressful day, I like to run it out.

5. Setting a concrete goal can really up my motivation. Preparing for a timed 5k or a Tough Mudder can motivate you to train. No one wants to perform badly when someone is watching.

6. The more I go on about CrossFit, the more people around me either a. get annoyed, or b. want to try it! Exercising to set an example is great motivation. I don’t have kids, but if I ever do, I want them to be around an active mom who is showing them how to live a healthy life.


7. Fitness magazines, NOT FASHION magazines, motivate me to work on myself. There are usually some decent tips in fitness magazines, although you should do some fact-checking. There are also usually interviews with great athletes, and I’m definitely not above taking advice from someone who is elite in their sport.

8. Success stories of any kind, but especially before-and-after photos really inspire me to keep up my efforts.

9. CrossFit is expensive. Once I toss that money out the window at the beginning of every month, I know I have to get to the classes, or it will be a waste.

10. This last one is both a pre- and post-motivation. My boyfriend is also an avid CrossFitter, and watching his transformation motivates me to keep going. I also like to see and hear the appreciative looks and compliments as he witnesses my progress. I think that anyone can benefit from a workout buddy of some kind. It doesn’t have to be a significant other, and you don’t necessarily have to work out together. You just have to support each other. Online, through blogs, fitness websites, texting, Skype, however you can manage. Knowing that someone is in it with you can be a great pre- and post-motivator.


1.  Schater, Daniel (2011). PSYCHOLOGY. United States of America: Catherine Woods. p. 325.

2. Wright, Robert (1995). The moral animal : evolutionary psychology and everyday life (1st Vintage books ed. ed.). New York: Vintage Books.


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