From Dreamer to Achiever: How to Stay Motivated on the Path to Success

Coach coaching client. Image: Pexels - Julia Larson

Each person’s definition of success is different based on their own perception of progress. It might be 1kg of fat or finally hitting 10,000 daily steps. It might be avoiding the bottle when stressed or having a heart-to-heart conversation with their significant other after a disagreement. The only thing that I measure as a coach is EFFORT.

Are you really trying to develop into a better version of yourself or are you lying to yourself by making excuses?

Are you actively looking for solutions to your problems or are you making one excuse after another and blaming others for your inability to reach your goals?

Do you wake up in the morning with the intent of completing your tasks or are you waiting for your coach to provide you with a jolt of motivation on a daily basis?

I might have my opinion as the coach, but you have to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.

That is your motivation!

“Let’s go!”

“You can do it!”

“Hang in there!”

Cue the Rocky movie soundtrack, hang up your motivational cat poster, scream your personal mantra while looking in the mirror, and slap yourself in the face several times. Are you ready to rumble?

Whatever your preference, we all need a little motivation to get out of bed in the morning, step out of our comfort zone, and do what is necessary to achieve our daily, yearly, or life-long objectives. There are millions of books, quotes, speeches, songs, and movies whose sole purpose is to motivate others to action. Countless amounts of money have been thrown at people in an attempt to motivate them to reach their goals. But does any of it work?

Coach coaching client.

My opinion: yes, but only up to a certain point. Motivation is like the spark that lights the flame in us, the kick in the butt we need to get started, or the pick-me-up we need after falling down. However, too many people rely on motivation to get them to their desired targets but eventually burn out and quit. That initial push helps fight the inertia of inactivity, but one can’t expect to be pushed all the way to the finish line. What is really necessary to keep that flame burning is the fuel we add to it with dedication, consistency, drive, grit, and determination, day-in day-out, until the desired outcome is achieved or for the rest of our lives.

Over the last 4 years working as a health and fitness coach, I have experimented with a variety of strategies to motivate my clients to reach their goals. However, I honestly don’t know if I had any effect on my 100+ clients over the years in terms of motivation. I have had clients that felt like I was being too pushy and quit. I have had clients tell me, “You are right, coach”, do a workout, and then nothing. I have had clients hide foods and snacks in an attempt to receive my praise as motivation, only to be disappointed when the scale doesn’t reflect what I see on their path.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to how much HE/SHE really wants it! If they want to lose weight, they have to eat less and make good choices when faced with challenging food environments. If they want to gain muscle, they have to make the time to get in their workouts and grind through them even if they are tired. I can’t spoon-feed them their meals, I can’t do their workouts for them, and I can’t be in their ear every time they encounter obstacles.

You might think, “Tom, you aren’t exactly motivating me right now!”

Coach keeping client accountable while coaching.

And you are right. I don’t consider myself a motivator or a cheerleader. I’m a teacher, a coach, and an accountability partner. My job is to educate people on the science of nutrition and exercise, to offer direction on their personal path toward health, to provide feedback on their progress, and to hold them accountable regarding their choices. I’m a friend when they need to help manage some of the emotional barriers that might appear, and I am empathetic when my client struggles to stay ON PATH with their nutrition or misses a few workouts.

My most “successful” clients have been honest with themselves and to me. They don’t expect me to do the work for them. They don’t expect to see results simply because they have paid their membership fees. They recognize that it is their own actions that bring about their consequences. Ultimately, they create a new identity based on the person they wish to be and make life choices that reflect that identity.

For example, if one of my students (I currently teach 1st grade) wants to become a doctor, she needs to show up to school every day for the next 15 years, do all of her homework, study for her exams, and collaborate with her classmates on projects. She needs to do these things without mom/dad/teacher constantly reminding her to do it. She needs to do them even when she is feeling sick, tired, or heartbroken. Even when she does manage to receive her diploma, she will need to continue to work 36-hour shifts, keep up-to-date with research, and cooperate with nurses and staff. All this doesn’t happen because of her motivation to be a doctor, it happens because she identifies herself as a doctor and understands that those things have to happen in order to maintain that identity.

At what point do we consider this student successful? Is it when she graduates high school or medical school? Is it when she has saved a life or wins a Nobel prize? Does our standard of “success” even matter?

No, it doesn’t.

Tom Mourikis is the founder of AZLO Coaching, a nutrition and exercise service with a focus on mindfulness, education, and accountability. He has degrees in Movement Sciences and Physical Education, as well as certifications as a Nutrition Coach (NASM) and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). After having previously lived in Chicago, Athens, and Guangzhou, Tom currently lives in Lima, Peru, with his wife and 2-year-old son.

Contact Tom Mourikis

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