A full arsenal. You kind of have to arm yourself with as many tools as you can. Ultimately, the determination and habit and effort come from within. Motivation is often external. That's okay! There are some days when I get to the gym hours later than I had originally planned. I don't want to go. I'm not feeling it. I have to psych myself up. I'm learning to get that psych from within myself, to change the voice in my head (and training her to be nicer, not so abusive). Some days, I need an outside voice.
I used to collect these on cue cards, back in my camp days before the Internet. "Thought for the Day" was part of the cabin routine, and let's face it: summer camp is all about the cheesy feel-good motivational feelings. Man, the World Wide Web has made it so much easier to find those quotes! They are everywhere on social media: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. Heck, you can just use Google Images to find a lot of great ones. Read as many as you need to, until those are the words in your head. Eventually, you will come to believe them. I surround myself with them: they are on my phone, they are my screensavers and desktops. I have an album on Facebook that I can flip through when I need to. I've even put a bunch of my favourites in their own page on this website.
While the motivational quotes are all about the visual, music fills your ears and your head. It can drown out the voice of negativity, with the words and the beat. The best workout songs are the ones with the fast pace AND the motivational, encouraging words. But there are so many songs which are about hope, perseverance, and life lessons that it's not a bad idea to make a playlist for the car, for your iPod or MP3 player, for your computer at work or at home, and plug in whenever you need to. Whether it's while you're active and working out, or whether it's just to get you out the door, music is a huge motivator. (Some of my favourite songs that really pump me up are here).
Friends and Community
There's nothing better for motivation than someone else saying, "let's go!" and "you can do it." The caveat here is that you have to ask for it (or, if you're trying to be their motivation, make sure they actually want it). There have been plenty of recent studies around using shame as a motivator - very common practice when it comes to obesity and weight loss - and if you're trying to impose a desire onto someone else, it is likely to backfire. But when the person wants it, needs support, and has asked for it, then a friend is just about the best thing there is. One of the most amazing things to have happened with the 55 Day Challenge is how people that I know, but who have never met, are encouraging and congratulating each other for their accomplishments. I've had people reach out and say "I'm having a really bad eating day. Help!" and I've done that to others, too. There's a solidarity in understanding the journey, even though we all have to walk our own path. It's more than having someone to work out with, or to share tips and recipes with, it's having people to talk to. This is, after all, an emotional journey for most of us.
Find friends who have similar health and fitness interests. Increase your circle of influence. Go online to find communities if your real life circle isn't wide enough. There are tons out there, from "fitblrs" on Tumblr, to the boards on My Fitness Pal, to Weight Watcher meetings in person.
Rewards and Celebrations
Speaking of Weight Watchers, one of the most positive aspects of my brief membership with them (about 10 years ago), was the rewards. You literally got a gold star for every 5 lbs you lost, and a ribbon for every 10 lbs. And then you'd sit at the AA-style meeting and they'd ask people to share their successes. You know what? I defy anyone to stand up, say "I lost 2.2 lbs this week!" and not feel a little glow when the room bursts out in applause and cheering. Celebrating the small milestones along the way helps tremendously in keeping the motivation going. For a journey that is based on baby steps and one-day-at-a-time, it's the only way to keep any kind of momentum.
While friends and communities are active support systems, it's great to use the passive ones, too. When you start looking, there are quite a lot of success stories to be found. In fact, I was hesitant to start this blog because I felt that there are so many out there already, why bother adding one more voice? But I got a message from someone, a friend of a friend, who said "thanks for sharing your journey. I need to lose 140 lbs or so. Before your share all I found were people who were 5, 10 maybe 15 pounds over weight and I felt hopeless and alone. If losing 10 lbs was the biggest challenge of their life ,what hope did I have? After reading your story I realize I need to focus on me and me only and that there is hope." And I realized that perhaps I am aware of how many blogs, Facebook pages, articles and sites there are with regular people who've had long-term, healthy success. But I've spent a lot of time looking. Maybe they're not as obvious or ubiquitous as I thought. They ARE out there, though, if you look.
Whatever it takes, whatever works for you, do it.
Just as long as it keeps you going.