Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Topic of the Month: Motivated to Move!

Jul 01, 2021 11:16AM ● By Editor
From Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and ?Cook County Public Health and Human Services - July 1, 2021

Have you ever had a time in your life when it felt like the best you could do was to trudge? When you were depleted of the energy you needed to move, whether that was literal physical activity or metaphorical growth and change? This last year has taken a lot out of all of us. As we shift into whatever is next, how can we find ways to get motivated to move?

The Two Types of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic (internal) motivation flows from the pleasure of doing whatever it is that we’re doing. It’s the curiosity that leads us to explore something new, and it’s the satisfaction that sustains us even when what we’re doing is difficult. Extrinsic (external) motivation is spurred by outside incentives. It’s what makes us strive for rewards and try to avoid punishments. If those rewards or punishments disappear, so will the behaviors they motivate.

If you’re struggling to find the gumption to get going, pause and ask yourself, “Does this feel like something that I have to do or something that I want to do?” If you’re feeling stuck, it’s most likely a “have to.” Take that big “have to” and break it down into smaller components. Is there any part of it that’s intrinsically appealing? Shift your focus to that part and see if you’re able to find a “want” that has more energy inside it.

For instance, we all know that physical activity is necessary for good health. But how many of us struggle to find the motivation to actually make ourselves exercise? What would happen if you flipped the script? Instead of exercising to avoid illness or reach a goal weight, what if you got active and went for a walk just because it feels good to be outside or simply because you sleep so much better at night? Whether you call it exercising or getting active, when the motivation that feeds it comes from inside you, it’s much more likely to endure.

The Four Ways We React

Just like we have internal and external motivations, we also have internal and external expectations about how we’ll respond to those motivations. In general, we react to those expectations in one of four distinct ways.

Upholders readily meet both inner and outer expectations. They’re highly disciplined and can sometimes stray into rigidness. Their motto – “Discipline is my freedom.”

Obligers have a much easier time meeting the expectations of others than they do motivating themselves. Their motto – “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”

Questioners only willingly do what makes sense to them. Their motto – “I’ll comply, if you convince me why.”

Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations. Their motto – “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

Having an idea of your “tendency” helps you to purposefully create circumstances that play to the strengths of both your intrinsic motivations and how you react to expectations in general. For example, imagine that you’re an Obliger that wants to get more physical activity. You’ve explored your motivation for this and discovered that while some forms of exercise sound like torture, you really enjoy rollerblading. Intrinsic motivation - Check!

As an Obliger, it’s important that, from the very beginning, you build in a framework of support and accountability: “Every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30—5:30 pm, I’ve got a rollerblading appointment with my friend Sam. Tendency alignment—Check!

To find out more about the Four Tendencies, visit author Gretchen Rubin’s website: .  For more information about getting geared up, visit the “Topic of the Month” page at and read the rest of this newsletter.  (Why not subscribe while you’re there!)  You’ll learn about “Motivational Interviewing,” and how it can help you get, and stay, moving!

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here