The people who stick with their goals aren’t the most motivated, but they have a better grasp on how to leverage motivation.

How to Hack Your Motivation | Dean Pohlman | Better Man Podcast Ep. 063

Most people believe that they need motivation to start a big task. Whether it’s a new project, a new workout routine, or a new way to enhance your relationships. 

But here’s the problem: 

Motivation ebbs and flows like the wind. Some days you feel a surge of motivation, but other days your motivational tank is on E. 

The people who stick with their goals aren’t the most motivated, but they have a better grasp on how to leverage motivation. For example, you usually feel more motivated at the beginning of something new, then it tapers out. 

In this episode, you’ll discover… 

  • Why motivation isn’t actually important 
  • How understanding motivation lets you use it to your advantage
  • Proven strategies to follow when you’re lacking motivation 

And more.

Listen now.

The Better Man Podcast is an exploration of our health and well-being outside of our physical fitness, exploring and redefining what it means to be better as a man; being the best version of ourselves we can be, while adopting a more comprehensive understanding of our total health and wellness. I hope it inspires you to be better!

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Watch a Clip From Episode 063

How to Hack Your Motivation | Ep 63

Episode 063 Highlights

  • The biggest misconception about motivation which actually makes it more difficult to start a new fitness regimen (1:29) 
  • The evolutionary reason behind why your brain doesn’t want to workout (and how to make yourself anyway) (2:00) 
  • The scientifically-proven “PAM System” for making your body and mind ready for exercise (6:19) 
  • How to hack motivation to your advantage by using the “Motivation Wave” (10:39) 
  • 2 simple things to do when your motivation is high to stick with your exercise program after motivation fades (12:02) 
  • The “slightly more” secret for sticking with your fitness routine when your motivational tank is on E (16:26) 
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated to workout? Try this “just one thing” mindset tweak to re-energize yourself (20:00)

Resources mentioned in this episode: 

  1. Birddogs: Need a new pair of the most comfortable shorts in the world? Try Birddogs shorts using our link, and get a free tumbler with your purchase: http://manflowyoga.com/birddogs
Episode 063: How to Hack Your Motivation - Dean Pohlman - Transcript

Dean Pohlman: Hey, guys. Justin, Welcome to the Better Man podcast. Today’s episode is a solo episode, and I’m going to talk about why motivation isn’t actually important, why it should not be a factor in whether or not you commit to a workout program or eating a new healthy diet or whatever it is. But I’m also going to talk about some facts that you should know about motivation and how you should let those understandings help you to drive whether or not you do something or just help you feel better about yourself.

Dean Pohlman: So and then at the end of that, I’m going to give you guys some strategies to overcoming a lack of motivation. So, all right. There’s a big misconception that doing your workouts is all about motivation. You need to watch a video to psych you up before you do your workout, or everybody who works out at the gym is really excited about their workouts.

Dean Pohlman: And you’re the only person who’s not excited about doing the workout. And that’s just not true. It’s not true at all. Most people are not going to be excited for every workout that they do. Sure, you’re going to have some workouts that you do feel excited that you are looking forward to. But there are also going to be a lot of workouts, maybe even most of your workouts that you actually don’t look forward to doing.

Dean Pohlman: And that’s actually really normal because our body wants to conserve energy. So you’re trying to get your body to do something that it knows is going to take up a lot of energy that biologically, historically speaking, would be needed for something more important like saving your life. But here you are using it up on an unnecessary energy expense.

Dean Pohlman: So it’s absolutely normal for your body, your brain, to resist doing a workout because you want to conserve energy. Right. So it’s very normal that you that you’re not going to feel up to doing your workout. So understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. That’s actually how humans are. There are a lot of people who do have high level motivation to work out or you maybe you see them just being doing their workouts consistently, but I think most people are more excited, are going to be more excited about the results of their workouts than they are about the workouts themselves and if you are looking at someone who is very disciplined and does their workouts

Dean Pohlman: consistently, they probably have days where they’re not feeling excited about their workouts. But the reason that they do them is because they have seen the results of those workouts. Either they see them, you know, if it’s something like Man for yoga, then they would see the results immediately after they finish the workout. They know that their body feels better throughout the day When they do it, they know that they have less stress.

Dean Pohlman: They know that it’s helping them somehow. They they they they recognize the benefits. They can experience them. And if you’ve done doing something like strength training for a while, if you stuck with it for a few months, then you would have realized, Oh wow, this is working. My muscles are getting bigger, I’m losing fat, I feel stronger. So the people who are more motivated for their workouts or just have higher discipline or have been more consistent, it’s because they’ve seen results.

Dean Pohlman: It’s because they know that even though it’s uncomfortable to go through a workout, especially a challenging one, that it’s worth it, that it’s going to do something for them. So I think that’s also important to note. So if you haven’t had success with your workout programs in the past, if they made you feel bad, if you haven’t noticed the results of them, if they made you feel bad both physically and a sense that after the workout you felt sore and your body hurt or mentally in the sense that you felt discouraged and demotivated and kind of ashamed at yourself If you weren’t able to follow the program, then those are all reasons why you might

Dean Pohlman: not feel excited about a workout program. So if you can be consistent with it for a few weeks and show to yourself, Hey, I can do this, and oh, this is doing something for me that’s going to help flip the script, that’s going to help flip the script for you. And now you’ll be drawing from an experience and from kind of this memory of, Oh, this does do something for me instead of workouts are just something make me feel bad because I don’t do them consistently.

Dean Pohlman: So I think those are really important things to understand now. Fundamental to my understanding of of motivation. I do a lot of reading on this. There have been three books in particular that I read. I’ve done The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I have it right here. There’s also Atomic Habits by James Clear. That’s a really, really popular one.

Dean Pohlman: But my favorite one actually is Tiny Habits by B.J Fogg. And the reason for that is because B.J. Fogg is a behavior scientist. He is the author of Tiny Habits. He’s a Stanford University professor, and he’s the founder of the Stanford Behavioral Designer, Behavioral Designer Design Lab. And what I like about his book and what I like about his content is that they’re all based on data.

Dean Pohlman: They’re all based on the experiments that he’s done in decades of research. So the stuff that he puts out is there’s a lot of stuff that goes out from other that’s really helpful. That makes a lot of sense that can be very applicable, that makes a lot of sense, I would say is like the most. But what I really like about BJ’s is that it’s proven.

Dean Pohlman: This isn’t just stuff that makes sense. It’s also stuff that’s proven to work. So fundamental to each is understanding. In my understanding of behavior, science is that action is determined by the intersection of prompt motivation and ability. So prompt being, is there something in the environment or is there something that prompts you to do the behavior at the desired time?

Dean Pohlman: That could be an alarm setting on your phone. That could be something that you see. It could be like seeing a yoga mat in your living room. It could be somebody else calling you and saying, Hey, it’s time to go to our workout. That’s a prompt ability is your ability to do the workout. He breaks it down into a few different chains of ability.

Dean Pohlman: It could be financial ability, it could be physical ability, it could be knowledge. So there’s a lot of different ways that there’s a lot of different things that go into ability. But the point is that ability is part of this. And then the third part of it is motivation. So motivation here is only one third of it’s only one part of determining whether or not an action takes place.

Dean Pohlman: And motivation is the most unreliable of these motivation goes up and down. Motivation can be dependent on how much you slept the night before. It could be based on how much stress you’ve had that day. It could be based on soreness or you know, what you did the day before. So there are tons of things that go into motivation.

Dean Pohlman: Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t, and you can’t rely on it. So when we rely on motivation, you’re probably going to set yourself up for failure. It’s very true that we can force ourselves to do something for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, but we can’t force ourselves to do something long term. I also want you to recognize that when you are attempting to do a new behavior, when you’re trying to, you know, stick with a workout program, and especially if it’s not dialed into a habit yet, something that you consistently do, the energy that is available to do this new behavior, you have to consider all of the existing things that

Dean Pohlman: you’re doing. So if you have your job, you have your relationships, you have all of the other responsibilities that you have. Now, on top of all those things, you’re also trying to do a new workout program. So it makes sense that it’s going to be really difficult because most of us are already living a difficult life. Most of us already have too many obligations.

Dean Pohlman: We already have too much stress on ourselves. And so adding one more thing on top of that is really hard to do. So I would I say that because I want you to be a little, you know, give yourself a little grace in the situation. But I mean, the idea that we should all be incredibly financially successful, that we should be perfect, you know, perfect family members, that we should be perfectly involved, you know, friends and our community, that we should be able to eat a healthy dinner every meal, workout every day, and then go to sleep, have a great night asleep and just be amazing all the time is just unrealistic.

Dean Pohlman: Right? So give yourself some grace here and understand that it’s really difficult to do something new, especially if you’re forcing yourself to do it. So that’s a few things about motivation. Now, I’m going to give you some hopefully some tips on some information on motivation that can help you hack it, so to speak, to your to your advantage.

Dean Pohlman: So first thing I want you to understand is the the motivation wave. So when you start something new, your motivation is higher. So if we think about that intersection of when behavior occurs, if you look at prompt ability and motivation, motivation is going to go down over time. So what we should do is when our motivation is high is to reinforce those other areas so that one motivation is lower, we have more likelihood of doing the behavior.

Dean Pohlman: So when your motivation is high, you can do things like set up a prompt for you to do that behavior that could be adding workouts to your calendar, that could be buying all the things that you need, that could be signing up for an annual membership. So you are committing yourself to an annual membership instead of doing something month to month.

Dean Pohlman: You can also learn how to do something. So if it’s something like learning how to put the app onto your TV or if it’s learning how to do a particular pose, maybe watching some tutorials, gaining some confidence in yourself. So when your motivation is high, you want to increase your ability and you also want to create prompts for yourself.

Dean Pohlman: So that’s something that I found to be a really profound and incredibly useful insight because it’s recognizing that motivation is going to go down. But using harnessing that motivation when it is high so that when the motivation does go down, you have systems in place that make it so you don’t require as much motivation. So use that motivation when it’s high to make, to increase the ability and to create a prompt should also recognize that motivation tends to be higher at the beginning of a time period.

Dean Pohlman: So when you start a new year, for example, that’s when motivation is going to be high. When you start a new season, motivation is going to be high, a new month, a new week. This is when motivation is going to be higher. So at the beginning of a month on a monday, the beginning of the week, you’re going to have slightly higher motivation than other times of the day.

Dean Pohlman: There’s just something about new and untainted that our brains like. So if you’re trying to motivate yourself to do something, try to start it on a new time period that’s going to help out a little bit. Something else to understand about motivation is that motivation tends to go down throughout the day. You’ll have ups and downs, but there are particular times of the day where you will have lower energy, particularly in the early afternoon.

Dean Pohlman: It depends on you. Some people get tired around 12, some people get tired around 4 p.m.. So I know for me if I can do my workout starting at about 330 or four, then I’ll be able to finish in time for the evening so I can be present and take care of my kids and make dinner and that kind of stuff.

Dean Pohlman: But I also know that while two would be a great time to work out, I’m not going to because I just don’t have that energy at 2 p.m.. I’m just not feeling it. So when you’re thinking about when you’re going to do something, you do want to try and plan that behavior in accordance to your fluctuating mode, your fluctuating motivation levels throughout the day.

Dean Pohlman: So if you know that you have really high motivation in the beginning of the day, most people do, that’s a great time to do your workout. That’s why you hear people say over and over that exercises that morning is the best time of day to do exercise. There’s a lot of reasons for that, and that’s not a blanket statement.

Dean Pohlman: Some people really do enjoy working out in the evening, myself included. I do my weight training in the evening because that’s how I’ve always done it. And I do my yoga and my kind of less intense stuff in the morning because that just works for me. But there definitely is something to doing your workouts in the morning because, you know, the the stress of the day just hasn’t happened yet.

Dean Pohlman: There’s less happening. Your motivation is higher. So be aware, your motivation levels fluctuate throughout the day and that’s kind of up to you to figure out when is your motivation level at its highest and to plan something for that time. If you struggle with doing it consistently. I mentioned this before, but you you write, you’re not going to be able to do something that you don’t want to do for an extended period of time.

Dean Pohlman: So if you’ve been doing something for a couple of weeks and it’s not getting easier, you don’t feel motivated to do it. It is a good idea to look at how can I make this easier or can I change this activity entirely? Should I do it at a different time of day? So don’t just, you know, I know this whole thing is about why motivation is important, but motivation can be a good indicator.

Dean Pohlman: So if you have consistently low, low, low motivation to do something, then it could be a good idea to go back and try and come up with a new plan. How can you make it so that it requires less motivation? How can you make it seem more exciting to do? Or how can you make yourself, you know, more excited to do it or feel better about doing it?

Dean Pohlman: If you all you feel is dread about what you’re doing and there’s a good it’s a good sign that you should probably figure out a different plan. And if you’re trying again, if you are trying to do something new, consider that you’re doing this on top of all the existing things in your life that you’re already doing. So give yourself some grace in this situation.

Dean Pohlman: All right. I want to finish this off with a few quick strategies. So what you can do when you’re lacking motivation but need to do it. So for me, these this is what I personally do. One really good strategy is to do just slightly more than you feel like doing. So I’ll give you an example in my own life.

Dean Pohlman: So I work out, I, I do my resistance training 3 to 4 times per week and there are some days when 330 rolls around and I know it’s time to start my workout. And I’m just I’m not excited about it. I just don’t feel excited. Do my workout. I still want to do it. And some days I will not do my workout.

Dean Pohlman: Some days, you know, if I if I am just physically not feeling up to it, I will skip the workout. If I if my joints hurt, you know, if I overdid it some a couple of days before then, or if I’m just physically, my joints will hurt. And I just know that I’m at a higher level of higher risk of injury.

Dean Pohlman: Then I’ll skip the workout and I’ll do it the next day. I’ll do something else instead. But if it’s just a day where I’m feeling a little bit lower and energy and motivation is lower, but I know that I still do my workout, then I would start by just doing slightly more than I feel like doing. So instead of going straight into my heavy squat workout or heavy deadlift workout, I’ll do a lot of easy warmup to get there.

Dean Pohlman: You know, I’ll do some, I’ll do some yoga, I’ll do some some kind of light to medium intensity muscle activation work like single leg bridges or planks or doing a high lunge or doing some basic balancing exercises. Just something to ease me into the activity instead of instead of jumping from straight to I don’t want to do anything to whoa, I’m doing something at intensity level eight out of ten.

Dean Pohlman: If I can ease into that by doing just slightly more than I feel like doing, that makes it that makes it a lot more palatable to me. I actually don’t take caffeine or pre-workout before my workouts. I did that in college for a couple of years and I really didn’t like that I was dependent on caffeine in order to be able to do a workout.

Dean Pohlman: Took me a really long time to kind of get past that, that addiction, so to speak. I still have coffee in the mornings. I’m pretty sure I would die if I didn’t. But I don’t do caffeine before a workout anymore because I just don’t want to be dependent on it for for doing a workout. I also like sleeping at night.

Dean Pohlman: So if I were to take a pre workout at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, I would not sleep and that wouldn’t be good. So anyways, thought I mentioned that one other thing that you can do is just to by easing into something, this is a really easy way to do it. That that works for all fitness levels is to go for a walk.

Dean Pohlman: So instead of doing your workout, go for a walk initially, get your energy level up and you can go for that walk at whatever pace you feel like doing. But, you know, as the walk progresses, maybe you can increase the intensity of the walk. But that’s a really, really easy way to ease into something. I’ve also gotten into a habit of going for a walk in the morning.

Dean Pohlman: I’ve been waking up a little earlier than I usually do, and rather than making a bunch of noise in the kitchen and waking up my wife, I try to slowly and quietly slip out the door and go for a walk. And that’s something that I can do literally after I roll out of bed. So it’s something that anybody can do regardless of high or low motivation levels.

Dean Pohlman: Another strategy is to take it one step at a time. So if you look at the if you’re let’s let’s use the example here is the workout, right? So if I’m looking at my workout as a whole and I’m sitting there and I don’t feel much motivation, looking at that workout as a whole is going to be kind of overwhelming.

Dean Pohlman: I’m looking at it thinking, Oh wow, I don’t know if I have enough energy or motivation to this entire workout. So instead of looking at the entire task, I’ll break it down into one thing. What is the what is the next one thing that I need to do to to do this task? So if you break things down into a sub sub task, instead of looking at it as an entire whole, it makes it a lot easier.

Dean Pohlman: So instead of looking at, you know, my whole workout with all of my exercises and sets and reps, if I can start looking at it by Oh, okay, my first exercise is squat. So what do I need to do for squat? Why? I need to do a little warmup. Okay, let’s get my glutes working. Okay, so I’m just going to start with a bridge.

Dean Pohlman: So I’ll just start by doing a bridge. So instead of looking at Let me do all this stuff, let me do my let me do. I got to do squats, I got to do bench press. I got all the stuff. I just look at I need to do a bridge right now to start warming up. So if you can break things down into subtasks and focus on one thing at a time, rather than getting overwhelmed by the task as a whole, that can help out a lot with motivation, just reframing it.

Dean Pohlman: And then the third strategy I’ll give you here is just to ask yourself if you are not feeling motivated right now, just to kind of just check in with yourself and say, What do I need right now? What is bothering me? What is making it hard for me to focus or to do what I need to do right now?

Dean Pohlman: So sometimes that could be that could mean that you need to journal about something that’s bothering you. Maybe it means you need to, you know, resolve whatever conflict is going on in a relationship. For me, in these situations, it’s just being intentional about feeling what I’m feeling, experiencing that and trying to move through whatever is holding me back the most rather than avoiding it going through it.

Dean Pohlman: So that is something that I found to be really helpful for me. I think it’s something that will be helpful for most people based on general wisdom. So if you are lacking motivation, figure out what is the biggest suck of your energy that’s happening in that moment and do something about it. So, all right, guys, I hope this was helpful.

Dean Pohlman: Again, motivation. It is really good to understand how motivation works to be able to plan for it, to be able to be able to actually not plan for it, but able to use other strategies to work around when motivation is high or low, and also to be able to, you know, take specific actions to build yourself up to the motivation level that is required for what you need to do.

Dean Pohlman: And I think also understanding that motivation isn’t going to be high, that we all have lots of stuff going on and we need to be a little kinder to ourselves. I think those are also really important pieces of information that we should consider when thinking about motivation. So guys, I hope you enjoyed this. So episode. Come back next Thursday for the new episode.

Dean Pohlman: That’ll be an interview. And then two weeks after that will be another So episode. So guys, if you enjoyed this, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcast or on Spotify. I’d really appreciate the review if you can write something nice for me, that would be cool to. We just got over 100 reviews on Apple Podcasts. I think we’re about at 50 at Spotify, so any review would be greatly appreciated.

Dean Pohlman: And then if you guys haven’t started with mental yoga, we do have a free seven day challenge. You can learn more and sign up for that at Manvel Yoga dot com slash seven DC There’s no credit card required for that. All right, guys, thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy it and I will see you on the next episode.


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