Welcome back to part two of Finding The Inner Spark. This week, we’re talking about moving from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control. If the last sentence sounded like complete gibberish, then you might want to read over part one of this series. This will explain all of the basics of what motivation is, the difference between external and internal motivation and which one is superior. Plus, there’s a very important homework assignment in part one that will really help you through this article.
So, if you’ve already completed the homework from last week, you should have a list of your external motivators written out. Great—make sure you have them on hand as you’re reading this article as we’ll be working with them.
Now that we have our external motivators front and center, let’s talk about how to turn those motivators into internal motivators. Surprisingly, it’s easier than you think.
First, realize that this is a process.
You are not automatically going to have all of your external motivators become internal ones overnight. But, if you stick with the process, you will eventually have a moment that I call the Switch-Flip. I’ve seen it over and over again in my patient population. Even patients who have struggled and fought tooth and nail in their program but have stuck with it have that moment that everything seems to become clear. Just like a switch got flipped in their brain. Suddenly, the program isn’t a burden, it’s a opportunity.
But, you have to give it time to get there.
That’s where these external motivators come into play. But sometimes patients feel that these external motivators aren’t “deep” enough. In reality, they may be much more profound than you think—you simply need to ask “why does this matter?”
Say that one of your motivators is to get off of some medications. Even with an “obvious” motivator like this, you need to ask “why?”
So why do you want to be off of the medications?
Are you worried about side-effects?
Are you annoyed by taking them on a daily basis?
Are they expensive?
All of the above reasons give depth to that initial external motivator.
Repeat this process with each of your external motivators. You may discover that these external motivators are actually tied to some internal motivation. That’s what we’re digging for.
Once you have your “deeper” reasons behind your external motivators, you’ll want to start working on your confidence with weight management. Remember in last week’s post, we discussed that success generates a self-reinforcing circle for an internal locus of control and internal motivation? Well, success is also a way to gain an internal locus of control.
The most successful tactic that I can suggest here is to start keeping a “win journal.”
This is simply a list of all of the successes that you’ve had in your weight management program. These wins can be small, like logging for an entire day, or carry more impact, like dropping a clothing size.
I can already hear you saying, “But Dr. McGuire, what’s the point of keeping something extra like that? I know what I’ve done.” That may be true, but your mental log is also much more susceptible to something called cognitive traps.
A cognitive trap is simply an error in thinking.
In most Cognitive Behavioral Therapy circles, there are ten accepted cognitive traps. We won’t be going into these in depth in this article, but they can have a huge impact on your motivation.
Think of these cognitive traps as monsters that eat away at your motivation. These traps are the voice in the back of your head that says “Yeah, but that’s not really a big deal that I did that.” or “I just got lucky, I didn’t really do anything.”
That “win journal” is what you use to fight those monsters.
Let’s look at an “insignificant” win. Every time you think “I logged today, so what?”, look back at your “win journal.” You’ll realize that it’s not just the fact that you’ve logged today. It’s that you’ve logged every day this week. Or that you’ve logged for the first time after getting off track (which means you’re back on your program).
Each time you look back at your “win journal,” you’re actually rewiring your brain. You’re claiming credit for your efforts, which in turn will show you that yes, you can do this. It’s not the program doing it. It’s not someone else. It’s you.
And you’ll want to do that over and over again. These pathways don’t shift after one attempt. We’ll need to reinforce them repeatedly until the internally motivated pathway becomes second nature.
Now, sometimes your win journal isn’t just a written down list of what you’ve done. Sometimes it’s a reminder of where you’ve been to show you how far you’ve come. I often recommend patients keep one or two articles of clothing from before starting their program or to keep a picture of themselves from before their program. After all, the changes that occur in a weight management program are very subtle from day to day. You often won’t give yourself credit for the things you’ve done until you have a concrete reminder of where you’ve been.
So let’s talk about your homework. You guessed it—get started on that “win journal.” This doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but you will want to physically write things down (remember–there is power in the process of writing). Next week, stop by for our discussion of how to get your motivation back after a setback.