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Motivation and the Needs Gap

The Whip and the Carrot

Motivation can be roughly defined as the reason or purpose for an act or activity. It is the thing that gets you moving toward some objective or goal. In your daily life you may be motivated by extrinsic factors, which are either rewards or punishments. If you were a beast of burden, you could look at extrinsic rewards in terms of the whip and carrot. For example, you may work at a job you don’t particularly like in order to earn money to pay your bills (the carrot), and you may show up on time each day because you are afraid of losing your job (the whip). Extrinsic motivation is often used in advertising that offers incentives or plays on your fears. However, dozens of studies have shown that extrinsic motivation typically does not lead to optimal performance.
Fire in the Belly

Unlike extrinsic motivation, intrinsic drive originates within a person’s psyche. It is self determination to perform or accomplish a thing. It is the secret sauce that separates high performers from those whose performance is mediocre. Successful athletes are intrinsically motivated. They are willing to train hard, study their sport or event, eat restrictive diets and do whatever else it takes to perform at their best. Creative people like artists, dancers and musicians are typically intrinsically motivated, as are many business people who work in a field they believe in and enjoy. Many fitness practitioners like personal trainers and group exercise instructors are intrinsically motivated. We gravitate to the industry because we love working out, and we enjoy the fantastic benefits of fitness. We are typically helpers who want to share our love of fitness with others.
The Challenge

It is one thing for you as a fitness practitioner to be intrinsically motivated, and entirely another thing to motivate others. You can use the whip and carrot approach, bullying your clients and offering them rewards for goal achievement. But inspiring them to be intrinsically motivated is a little trickier. It requires you to dig a bit deeper to understand their innermost needs. This is where a thorough needs assessment comes in. Your obese client may tell you they need to lose weight, but weight loss is not the need. The need lies beneath the surface. It is the gap between the optimal condition and the current condition. It can be an emotional need, an educational gap, a faulty belief system or an attitude problem. It can be too much stress and an overloaded work schedule. Identifying your clients’ needs is fundamental to motivating them to move forward toward their goals. Thoughtful questioning and attentive listening are a good place to start. Focusing on feelings rather than behaviors will help your client search within to expose their underlying needs.
To stay motivated as a fitness professional, you need to see your clients succeed, and professional growth and education will equip you with the necessary tools. To better understand what makes your clients tick, consider a certification in Lifestyle Fitness Coaching or Personal Training. Learn more about working with children or senior citizens with Youth Fitness or Older Adult Fitness certifications. Or keep your gym members motivated and coming back for more with our Fitness Management certification. At W.I.T.S., your success is our success!

*Images courtesy of Master Isolated Images; zdiviv; Danilo Rezuti.

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