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Trouble with Focus or Motivation? Use the “Origin Story Technique”

Everyone screws up sometimes.

Like me. I was supposed to write 2 times a week for this site before I realized that’s a LOT of writing. That’s especially true because I wanted to expound upon important stuff in fitness, rather than pollute the Internet with more crap.. Heck, even I succumb to the rigors of life and postpone a workout — though I admit I feel miserable when I skip.

What matters isn’t that you never mess up. It’s that you recognize it and you get back on track.

But why do we so easily fall out of a newer fitness habit? How do we deal with it?

Today, I’ll explain why, and I’ll give you 2 techniques to re-align yourself on your fitness habit.

There are 2 pieces to motivation: your behavior must be in line with your goal and you must remember why you 

What is the Goal of Your Training?

What’s the goal of your training? Some people exercise with vague goals in mind: “I want to be healthier”, “I want to look good”. This is bad because you have no idea why you’re training, and are likely doing all the wrong things.

If you’re doing the wrong things, you’re not going to accomplish your goal. And that will make you miserable and give up.

Ask yourself the question. Do you want to fight better? Do you want to jump higher out of a run? Do you simply love the feeling, and getting lean is a byproduct? And after identifying what your goal is, are you actually working towards it? Or is this a case of motion without progress? And does your behavior work towards this goal, or against it?

Sometimes this can be obvious – if you’re not exercising or managing diet at all, then you’re not going to be reaching your goal. However, sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge about what behavior will reach our goal. For example, someone who wants to lose 10 pounds of fat may run a whole lot and eat only meat… only to feel miserable and lose little weight. In this case, it’s because the behavior (training, diet) were mismatched with her primary goal.

A better alternative would be to follow Roam Strong’s System, and to eat all 3 macronutrients in moderation (encouraging a dependable, less stressful eating habit).

In my case, my (original) goal was gaining muscle mass and being stronger/sturdier. The behavior I should practice is strength training. And my diet should be in caloric surplus, with enough protein to encourage growth (I aimed for 2g/kg, roughly .9g/lb).

I’ve talked about making sure your behavior is in line with your goals here. This is the science aspect. But even when we see results, we sometimes just stop when life gets in the way. I know I said motivation couldn’t be trusted. Well, I make one exception.

A Secret Weapon – Origin Story Technique

When I was younger, I was 5’3″ and 100 pounds. Thoughts of athleticism people legitimately laughed at. And worse yet, I didn’t feel I could defend myself in a situation that warranted it.

It SUCKS for people not to take your dreams seriously.

It all came to a tipping point. I could be like the heroes I admired on TV, and work hard on myself to be something better. Or I could succumb permanently to weakness. You can guess my choice.

Everyone, given enough time, will have an origin story. And this story will ignite you with passion, purpose, and motivation almost every time you recall it.

To remember something in cognitive neuroscience means the same neural pathways in your brain fire again. It’s literally like traveling back in time, complete with thoughts and feelings. You can utilize this shift in mindset to your advantage by recalling your best moments of intense motivation. Habits will (or, SHOULD) result in 90% of your workouts. However, sometimes you need a kick in the ass to drive you forrward.

That’s when remembering the why not just the how is important.

I can’t pretend to know the specifics of why you chose the path of fitness. That’s up to you. But here are a few common retrospective questions you can ask to get you back on track:

  1. The Past: remember why you began to workout in the first place – was it prove your ex-lover wrong? To stop people from dismissing you so easily? To be more confident?  This is normally your tipping point, or a life-changing moment in your fitness journey.
  2. The Present: Visualize the circumstance in which you were most passionate, emotional, and motivated to workout. Were you especially energized in a recent workout? Encouraged by a compliment given to you? Remember those small moments.
  3. The Future: remind yourself of the person you’ve become, or are becoming. Don’t be afriad to dream big, and dream ridiculous. I imagined myself to be Vegeta from Dragonball Z sometimes. Anything to help me towards my goal and perform in confidence.

Parting Words

If goals give you the vision to see your progress, your origins are like a northern star, a guiding light to keep you focused when even your habits fail you.

Keep it up.

Move Stronger, and Live Longer

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About the author

Aaron Dear

Aaron Dear is a fitness advocate, bodyweight athlete, and product manager from Berkeley, California.

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