Frank Eirik Abrahamsen is an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. He works at the Department of coaching and psychology, and is responsible for the bachelor’s degree with a specialization in training, coaching and sports psychology.
He has given us some tips on how to find motivation to live an active lifestyle, and how to stay motivated during a lifestyle change.
The Self-Determination Theory
One of the first things Frank Eirik mentions is The Self-Determination Theory. This theory is based on three psychological needs: self-determination, knowledge and belonging. The theory states: when those needs are met we are more easily motivated, productive and happy.
“We know that knowledge is motivation. To feel you have skills is motivating.”
“In addition, it helps with a feeling of belonging, which you can find through support from your family or making training arrangements with friends. It is also important that the training is self-determined, that no one is “forcing” you to work out.”
Keep eating chocolate
Frank Eirik’s experience is that people can be a bit unaware of what they really want; what is our actual motivation to go through a change. He recommends that you set aside some time at the start of a major change process to reflect on what the goal is.
“Write down why you want a change. Then it’s not just a feeling, but also more specific. And if the motivation drops along the way, the notes can be a reminder of why you are doing it.”
Frank Eirik also says it’s important not to bite over more than you can chew, and you should find activities you look forward to doing.
“It is easier to start with something you love than to stop something you like. Do not stop eating chocolate, but eat less. Don’t start with six training sessions a week, start with 2 and do something else the other days. Go for a walk, for example.”
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
How about rewards? Is that motivating?
“Reward is a vulnerable form of motivation. It is not strong, but when you are missing any other motivation, it can work. However, you should look to the benefits you get from the changes first. That is a better form of motivation.”
According to Frank Eirik one distinguishes between the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, where reward is an extrinsic, or more briefly, motivation.
“Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is qualitatively different, and the intrinsic motivation stays much longer. If you have this type of motivation, the activity itself so motivating that you do not need rewards or someone cheering you on.”
It is however the extrinsic motivation that gets you through the heavy training sessions.
“Positivity and self-affirmation is helpful if you struggle to find motivation during a training session. Some athletes write their motivation somewhere they see it. For example, a handball player I worked with had drawn a sun in her palm. It reminded her of what she was straining for, and what attitude she should have during her training.”
It’s okay with a delay
Finally, Frank Eirik has some advice for people who want to undergo a lifestyle change. He says you should spend some time thinking about the positive outcome of your changes: longer and healthier life, easier to climb stairs, you feel fresher, you get into your favourite clothes and it is easier to play with the kids – to mention some positive outcomes.
“Also, it is important to create a plan for your changes, but do not fall completely out of it if you drift away from it.”
“I’ll try to make a comparison. Most of us have driven to work and been delayed because of queue, but that does not make us turn around and go home again. This can be transferred to lifestyle changes. Something may happen along the way, which forces you to postpone your plan, but it is only slightly delayed. If you don’t stop you will reach your goal in the end. Just look at it as a detour.”