Three Steps to Finding Motivation and How to Keep It

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” – Tony Robbins

What you need to know:

  1. There are three fundamental principles to make sure you reach your goals in life: motivation, systems, accountability.
  2. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.
  3. Intrinsic motivation is far superior to extrinsic.
  4. Answering ‘Why’ is the most important step to success.

It is almost upon us. Beach Season. Pool Season. It’s the third cycle of the year where you haphazardly stumble into the gym, actually using your membership you’ve nearly forgotten about. Or perhaps you’re picking up that workout DVD in the checkout line, or joining a boot camp, etc. You get the picture.

This same cycle repeats itself every New Year, the week before spring break, and the short time leading up to the summer months. It’s as if people need an external motivator to start working out, eating clean, and living a healthier life. Tell people they’ll be seen in public in their swimsuit and all of a sudden they’ve committed themselves to 1000 crunches and running 3 miles per day for the month of May.

However, that is just the problem. From where is that motivation coming? Let’s be honest, the main reason we see these huge spikes in gym memberships and activity levels around these times, and then watch as people fall off, and it becomes just another card on your key chain, is people do not have the proper motivation.


Alvin Brown, author of Journey to Personal Greatness puts it this way: the key to staying motivated and inspired to become the best version of yourself is to know your why.  Consistent motivation to act requires a deep-rooted reason to continue.  (Listen to our chat with Alvin here or for more on his book here).

This all seems pretty intuitive, right? If we have improper or ill-defined motives, we will not succeed in our mission. It’s like trying to run a Maserati on regular unleaded – we are running on the wrong fuel!

The Why (your fuel) is the most important question to answer for every single aspect of your life but bear with me here as I make my case.

Intrinsic Motivation is Paramount

A) Daniel Pink gave one of the Top 20 Ted Talks of all time, in which he describes incentive protocols for problems which require creative problem-solving skills, but the premise applies here.

Pink references Sam Glucksberg’s reincarnation of the candle experiment first performed in the 1940’s. The idea was to have subjects complete a relatively simple task, requiring some out of the box thinking to overcome functional fixation.

To one group Glucksberg instructed them to perform the task only to establish norms for the average time to completion. While the other he incentivized with $5 for the fastest 10% and $20 for the overall fastest time of the day.

What Glucksberg found was surprising to each of us who believe in capitalism! The group that was incentivized with rewards took on average 3.5 minutes longer to complete the task. In the talk, Pink goes on to explain how there is a “mismatch between what science knows and what business is doing.” If you’d like the whole picture, watch here.

What this boils down to is extrinsic motivation (money or what others think of you at the beach/pool) versus intrinsic motivation (how fast can I complete this task or I exercise for my well-being and longevity).

B) Also, take for instance a newly published study out of Rio de Janeiro that examined students, ages 13-18, and their driving forces to participate in “leisure-time physical activity.” At the conclusion of the study, the authors established that “intrinsic motivation was revealed to be the best predictor of satisfaction/fun,” which ultimately was the reason why these students participated in such activities in the first place.

What this study suggests is if you have the proper intrinsic motivation, not only are you more likely to participate in such activities, but you are actually more likely to enjoy them and receive more satisfaction than any other motivator.

C) Even look at Special Forces Selection candidates. The drop-out rate is staggering! Navy SEALs boast an 80% and higher dropout rate during their grueling BUD/s selection phase. From all my reading, SEAL documentaries, and in talks with the few SEALs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, they all say the same thing. You are not making it through BUD/s unless you have the right mindset. Unless the motivation to be a part of the most elite fighting force in the world resides deep within you, then the instructors, the waves, the sand, the grinder, the cold showers, and just the plain, wet, cold will not distract you from your destination. If this desire is foreign to you, then you have no chance at ever wearing the Trident.

Hopefully, you see where I am coming from now, so you know intrinsic motivation and knowing why is the key to a constantly filled, freight train of motivation and inspiration!

However, that’s not enough because this question always ensues: “Where do I get some of that?” The answer is easier than you think. I mean cmon, it’s inside of you! Right?

Finding Intrinsic Motivation

Josh and I wanted to start waking up earlier, at 5:00 AM to be exact. We wanted to be more productive with our day, and we crave continued personal and professional growth. Now I’ve had the same thought in the past, and I’ve set my alarm to 5:00 plenty of times but to no avail. I always end up waking up at 6:30 or so and just tell myself, “What would I have done in that time anyway?” But, now I have a real reason to wake up early, a real Why, with steps in place that ensures it’s success.

We just recently implemented a fool-proof morning system intertwined with accountability that works. I have yet to hit the snooze button, and I’m writing this article now with my new-found time in the morning! We will dive into the specifics of how to recharge and reshape your morning another time.

However, I’ll give you the bare bones for starters. We had two alarms (“two is one, one is none” – Jocko Willink), we had to text each other at 5:00, compare times for our workout, and complete our whole morning routine by a fixed period.

We’ve both been going strong now, and honestly, these have been the most productive mornings in my life. I feel invigorated and anxious to get out of bed in the morning, ready to tackle the day. And I’m not just saying that. I love my morning routine. And honestly, now it’s easy!

Now, did we don’t just WILL ourselves to get out of bed at 5:00 every day? Did we just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and continue to fight? Absolutely not! Let me walk you through how this was possible.


Before we move on, if you’re looking to stoke the fire of motivation to get ready for beach season, or your first obstacle race, or just looking to live a long, healthy and satisfied life, I cannot help you answer the question to your why.

Here’s the thing, each and every one of you will have your internal reason as to why you would want to become more fit. For some that motivation will be looking good in a swimsuit and that is okay! Superficial sure, but who doesn’t want to look that good?! As long as it is a real, intrinsic motivator and doesn’t stem from the Men’s Health Magazine at the checkout.

Although I cannot help with answering why, if you actually want a successful strategy to ensure you will complete your workouts, the system and accountability rules apply.

The System

The morning routine is a system set in place; it takes out the self-talk and inner dialogue that tends to happen when the alarm first goes off in the morning, and you’re not thinking clearly. The system we have in place takes the guess work and leisure time out of the morning routine. It allows you not necessarily to be on autopilot, but it disallows additional negative thoughts to take up any mental space.

The system is what takes the guess work out of your exercise routine. It does not allow the negative self-talk and list of reasons we all come up with to not hit the gym. Here’s how to apply it to your fitness goals:

  • Schedule: Set a schedule to exercise at the same time each day. Block it off on your planner and know that you or anyone else cannot move it.
  • Routine: Know what you are going to do before stepping into the gym. Have the workout ready to go, so you do not have to think about it. Or find a qualified professional to write a program for you.
  • Preparation: Have your gym bag packed the day before or the morning of. Have your pre and post-workout food and supplements ready to go as well.

The Accountability

If it was just one of us trying to wake at 5:00 on our own, I guarantee this blog post would never exist. The system can only do so much. Getting out of bed, knowing that Josh is also about to throw his body down and then off the floor 50 times (burpees, #50@5) tells me I have to do it too. I can’t leave another man stranded doing burpees all alone at 5:00 AM.

What follows is accountability.

Plan A

Find a good workout partner who has similar goals as you, and is at relatively the same physical condition. There are benefits to working with someone more physically fit than you are, but as an accountability partner if you’re doing similar workouts it’s best if you two (or three, or four..) are on the same page.

  • The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) boasts that you are 95% more likely to complete a given task if you have a particular appointment with an accountability partner.

Plan B

If finding an in-person workout partner is not possible at this time, at least have someone you can call and talk about this with. Compare workouts and results, share pictures and progress, discuss the good and bad from your workout. Join a Facebook group for people trying to lose weight or training for a particular purpose.

People who suffer and struggle together create a bond that is stronger than family ties. Look at the Crossfit community and what it has created. People’s lives revolve around their box. And the majority of the conversation is complaining about workouts! But in reality, they love it! They paid good money for it! There’s something to this accountability thing.

  • According to the ASTD, you are also 65% more likely to complete the task just by telling another person you are going to do something.

Eventually, with these three parts running in synchronous fashion, you will finally look up and not even recognize where you are anymore. You won’t look the same, you won’t feel the same, and these things that you have to convince yourself to do will become the most enjoyable parts of your day.

The old adage stands true: “Fake It until you Make IT!”

In closing, to accomplish anything in life, from financial freedom to protection against obesity and disease, you need to do three things:

  • Answer the question to, “Why do I want this?”
  • Set a system in place that allows no room for failure.
  • Find an accountability partner or group that will hold your feet to the fire when needed.


2 thoughts on “Three Steps to Finding Motivation and How to Keep It

  1. Love how you break it down! Most people miss the accountability piece too- but that’s where the magic is! People are often too shy or too scared to admit that something is important to them and they need help. I like your Plan B idea in that case!

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