On Motivation and Dedication
Motivation can be an incredibly powerful force. Erin and I were motivated to radically change our lifestyle, one step at a time, after watching a Pixar Movie (Up). While this movie motivated us to start our journey towards a more healthy and active lifestyle, motivation can at times be fleeting. In my experience, dedication has been a much more powerful tool in helping me reach my goals.
In this blog post, I will talk about what motivates me towards my goals and how I use dedication to keep those goals on track.
Goal of getting to and maintaining a healthy weight
Aside from a brief period of time during junior high school, I have always struggled with maintaining a healthy weight. At my heaviest of 250 pounds, being 5 feet, 7 inches tall I had a BMI of 39.2 and was severely obese. I always knew that if I didn’t eventually change my lifestyle and get to a healthy weight, I would end up having health problems that would likely cut my life short. You would think that would be enough to motivate me and change my lifestyle, but it wasn’t. Below is a list of the things that motivated me reach and maintain a healthy weight:
Live a longer, more full life
Be able to go on adventures with Erin
Easily buy clothes off the rack
This is a pretty powerful list, but what has been the greatest tool for me in getting to and maintaining a healthy weight has been dedication. Dedicating myself to stopping the unhealthy habits that put me at 250 pounds and adopting new habits that have enabled me to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Habits like being calorie conscious and using a kitchen scale. There are many days where falling back into old habits would be easy, but making the decision every day to keep dedicated to my healthy habits, even when I don’t feel motivated to do so has been key for me.
Some pictures of me at my heaviest. Clearly all the motivation in the world would not have been enough. Dedication was required.
Goal of becoming a competitive athlete
I was never athletic growing up. Having always struggled with my weight, body image issues were a big contributor to this. A bigger problem though was every time I tried a new sport or activity, I was motivated to win and be the best. I was very driven in other aspects of my life and I applied that same motivation to be the best and win, even if I was just starting or trying a new sport that would take years to master. I have since learned that taking slow steps over a long period of time is the best method to achieving a big goal. Since I started running just over two years ago, a number of things have served as powerful motivators for me:
Setting a personal best time in the half marathon distance
How amazing running is for maintaining a healthy weight
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon
The runner's high
What I have learned in my journey in becoming a competitive endurance runner is that no matter what my motivation is regarding a sport or activity, dedication is so much more important.
Not every workout will have a rainbow at the end....
I live in Northern Canada and there are many winter days, when I would rather sit inside and watch Netflix, instead of going for a run in -30 Celsius. Motivation alone, no matter how epic the end goal is, will not always be enough to get me out the door. Layering up, lacing up my shoes, putting ice spikes on my shoes and being dedicated to getting outside for a run on a consistent basis is what has enabled me to reach my goal of becoming a competitive athlete. This dedication, whether it’s related to lacing up my shoes and running outside or getting to the gym to work on strength training is what will keep pushing me to reach new, more ambitious fitness related goals.
Goal of becoming more financially independent
After completing 7 years of post secondary education in 2012, I was fortunate to begin a professional career in my chosen field. Erin had been working as the main income earner during my graduate school years, so we were both excited to become more financially independent and aggressively tackle the over $22,000 in student loans I had accumulated.
Looking back on that period of our life, what was really holding us back from becoming more financially independent was the unhealthy lifestyle we were living. Until we dedicated ourselves to changing that, the powerful motivations listed below were not going to get us anywhere:
Go on amazing vacations
Buy a vacation home in Phoenix
Not panic at an unexpected veterinary or car repair bill
Have a mortgage as our only debt
From 2012-2014, Erin and I made some progress on the $22,000 in student loans, but things kept coming up and there were months where we were only making minimum payments. I knew this meant we would end up having this debt for decades and paying a ridiculous amount of money on interest payments.
In 2015, around the same time we made the move to a more healthy and active lifestyle, we decided to also get serious about our finances and dedicate ourselves to the ambitious goal of paying $1000 a month towards our student loans. There were many days where sticking to our budget and keeping that end goal or motivator in mind was really difficult. It would have been easy to just abandon our goal, keep making the minimum payments on our student loans and spend all that money on fun things instead. But making hard choices and dedicating ourselves to them every day was so satisfying when we saw $0 owing on my student loans.
Pictures from one of our camping trips. One of the ways we still enjoy vacationing on a budget is camping in the mountains.
Here are some of the choices we made that helped us reach our goal:
Restricting our food budget to $280 a month for the two of us
Doing most of our shopping for clothes at thrift stores
Me going without a cell phone contract and just using wifi hot spots to communicate
Hanging out and playing board games at home with friends instead of going out for dinner
Vacationing on a budget - we love the mountains and camping is a frugal way to enjoy being there without a big price tag
Motivation can be powerful and a useful tool for setting goals, but absent of dedication, motivation is like having a lofty goal with no plan about how to get there. Motivation has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel if I am having a really bad day, but dedication is what keeps me on track, day after day and it’s ultimately what enables me to reach the ambitious goals I have set for myself.
Picture from the 2017 Edmonton 1/2 Marathon, where I set a new personal record!
"Dedication is what keeps me on track, day after day"