Tug of War of Motivation:  Push of the “Pain” or Pull of your “Purpose”

Tug of War

Our mindset is our most powerful tool in our toolkit that can support us towards our goals or it can be our most powerful saboteur.  This can apply to all areas of life and I certainly see this make such a difference to a person’s experience when trying to lose weight and even more importantly when trying to maintain their weight loss.  

But what is the emotional state driving one’s mindset towards successful results?  

Understanding what is driving your mindset can make a big difference in how you experience your journey.  Is it a journey that feels like it requires unbelievable self-discipline and suffering where you are in a state of worry, doubt and anxiety…..even if you are achieving your goals? 


Is it a journey that feels inspired, focused, calm and generally has  a feeling of ease while sticking to your plan?

The actor Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) is in a documentary on Disney called Limitless and in this show he made a very powerful statement that I thought captured the essence of where our motivation can come from.

In this documentary he is being put through various experiences that are known to promote longevity such as fasting, hot and cold plunges, exercising to fatigue etc.  Many of these experiences are extremely challenging.  

He said that in his past he realized that Fear was his driving emotion behind his desire to be successful.  Fear of failure, Fear of letting others down, Fear of making a mistake etc.  One could say his fear served him well and pushed him to great success.  He said he tried to view his fear as the fuel that allowed him to succeed rather than viewing it as a character flaw.  Having said that, he said it is not a fun state to be in all the time in order to excel.

In the show, through some of his experiences where he was being forced to face his mortality and reflect on his life, he came to a conclusion which hit me hard and I could see how it applied to so many people I have worked with. 

Even though fear was his fuel for motivation,  he realized that he could also be motivated by a higher purpose so that his motivation to succeed was not just fuelled by fear.

He said that going forward he wanted to have a balance between 

“the Push of Fear towards excellence and the Pull of PUrpose towards excellence”.

I thought this was a very powerful statement.  There is a time for fear to push us and get us going but as well it can be the pull of our purpose and values that keep the fires burning.

This way of thinking has a direct impact on motivation for sustainable weight loss which I see frequently with my clients.

Motivation to lose weight may not come specifically from fear but for many it often comes from a negative emotional state that is pushing us to take action.  When people first reach out to me I always ask them about their “why” behind wanting to lose weight.  Generally the statements focus on how uncomfortable their life is currently with the added weight.  It could be about clothes, aches, pains, lack of energy, lack of confidence, mood, health issues.  In other words it is the “Pain” of the situation that  has become so uncomfortable that it is  Pushing them to take action.

Motivation from the “Pain”  is completely fine and it is a great starting point but what happens when they are trying to maintain their weight?  Once the “pain” of the situation subsides due to their weight loss then the motivator is gone and that can mean people will be more prone to stopping their healthy new habits and over time that will lead to weight gain.

But what if people also start looking at the Pull of the Purpose of losing weight.  If the purpose of being healthier and losing weight  is value driven then it will still be very relevant once the “pain” is gone and it will continue to motivate them to keep making healthy lifestyle choices majority of the time.  

The result being that they can keep the weight off and this motivation is sustainable and comes with EASE rather than  coming from a place of suffering or fear.

No matter what stage you are in now, wanting to lose weight or wanting to maintain weight and continue to live a healthy lifestyle, think about what is fueling your motivation.  Is it just  the Push of the Fear/Pain and/or the Pull of your purpose. 

 If you realize your motivation seems to come from the more “negative” state, realize that is still okay but it might be time to also make a list and recognize how losing weight and maintaining it will contribute to your values and purpose in life so that is Pulling you towards a long term healthy lifestyle. 

Tap into BOTH sources of Motivation so you are being Pushed AND  Pulled towards your goals.