Motivation Is A Neurological Skill

Having motivation is actually a neurological skill that needs to be practiced.  You always have motivation, it’s just that you may not have motivation for what you want it for.  Let’s dig in.


  • You ARE motivated
  • What you say and what you don’t say has an impact
  • Your feelings don’t matter

You are so warm and comfortable in your king size bed with recently washed sheets and your new Tempur-Pedic pillow, there is a light drizzle outside and it’s one of your favorite sounds. You wipe the drool from your right cheek and smile because you always do that when you know you have slept really well (Ok maybe that’s just me) but regardless you loved every second of your uninterrupted slumber and have a really long week ahead. You don’t know what time it is and think to yourself, “I hope I get one more hour.” Luckily you DO. It’s only around 4:30 am. Then what feels like 5 minutes go by and your alarm starts going off and scares the bejeezus out of you and you snarl at the thought of having to turn it off. You hit the snooze button and realize what is happening.  It’s MONDAY and you have to meet with your trainer in half an hour. 

Do you get up or do you sleep in?

Why does it seem like some people jump out of bed bright and early; yawning glitter, pooping rainbows and exhaling sunshine while other people take an entire hour for their eyelids to un-glue slowly, after they’ve hit snooze for 37 minutes and then need coffee before you can communicate with them?

Are the “go-getters” more motivated than the “grumpy gills?” 

Here is the truth. WE ARE ALL MOTIVATED. Motivation doesn’t fall into your lap and some people don’t “have it” and some people aren’t “born with it” and some people definitely do not find it at the end of the rainbow. 

If you think you don’t “have” motivation I really hope that someone sent you this or it actually fall into your lap (let’s be real I mean your email. Facebook or Instagram). The only reason you don’t think you have motivation is most likely because you’ve never studied it. It’s weird stuff. You have a job and a life, why would you ever look that up? 

If you did in fact just look up the definition of motivation, you will find several descriptions. They differ amongst countries and are truly fascinating.

Whatever the new definition is today, I would like to challenge you to these 2 brand new ways of defining it:

  1.   A cognitive/emotional comparison between different outcomes. 
  2.   A neurologic skill, which means it can be learned and trained, or ignored and lost. 

So now you’re thinking, “ Okay so, what’s your point?”

My point is, a person’s brain makes a decision based on different outcomes and cognitively and emotionally picks between them. I will either lie in my bed and sleep through my 6:00 am morning workout* OR I will get up and go because I said I would. 

* Insert whatever task you need to in order to make this relevant for your life. I don’t know what you’ve signed up for so I am using one that most people struggle with, but you catch my drift.

Now, what are some common factors that a person could be facing in order to decipher between the two outcomes? 

Let’s brainstorm together.

The session with trainer:

  • How much did the session cost me?
  • How much do I like my trainer?
  • Where is the session?
  • Do I like the location?
  • What will I be doing? (Legs? Core? Obstacle course? Stretching? Tabatas? mobility? upper body?)
  • Do I “feel” like being sweaty?
  • Have I been “good” lately?
  • Have I been “bad” lately?

Staying in bed and sleeping:

  • How much sleep did I get? 
  • Did I drink alcohol last night? 
  • Do I like my bed? 
  • Will I actually sleep if I stay in bed? 
  • How much do I value the money that the session costs?
  • Do I care if I “lose” that money? 
  • Did I work really hard to make that money? 
  • Will my trainer make me do extra burpees for canceling? 

All of these thoughts happen within a matter of seconds. 

Motivation is also defined as: an inner drive to behave or act in a certain manner. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day (

Now the interesting part is this; no matter what you choose to do, YOU ARE MOTIVATED!


YEAH! You heard me!  


If you choose to go to the session, you are motivated to go to the session. If you choose to stay in bed then you are motivated to stay in bed. You actually choose between two outcomes and decided one option is better than the other. You CHOOSE. 

In our world today, motivation is key. Motivation has people hit their quotas in their job, buys their spouse flowers, stay a little longer at work, get to bed early and of course, hit the gym even when they’re tired. Motivation can be interpreted in many different ways and mean something different to everyone. Some people get fired up about not having to do something; some people get fired up about being able to do something. Since motivation is a neurological skill it must be practiced. 

According to Wikipedia, motivation is also described as: a psychological feature that arouses an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviors. It can be considered a driving force; a psychological drive that compels or reinforces an action toward a desired goal. 

For example, hunger is a motivation that elicits a desire to eat. If we do not practice sharpening that skill and what motivates us to do and say certain things, we will subconsciously have to surrender to the inevitable results of taking certain actions or not.

Everything we do and everything we don’t do has an impact.

It impacts the people around us, the results we are looking for and has lasting effects. Not to say those results can’t be altered, but there is an impact no matter what. 

One of my favorite parts about coaching people on motivation is having them be clear that it has nothing to do with feelings. It has to do with what you’re committed to. You may not feel like saying I love you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t say it. You know the repercussions of NOT saying it and choose between two outcomes and eventually decide to say it or not to say it, regardless of how you feel. You may not “feel” like going to the gym, but you said you would and you may have a commitment to fit into those high school jeans and you might run into your ex next weekend. You’re either committed to fitting in the jeans and looking really good when you run into your ex or you’re not. 

You’re either a person that honors your word or you’re not. 

Regardless of how you feel. Consider yourself someone who honors their word versus someone who is or isn’t motivated and it will change your life.

If motivation is a skill, then what is a skill? 

A skill is, a: the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance, b: dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks, c: a learned power of doing something competently: a developed aptitude or ability. 

When you see motivation through this lens, it is clear that motivation must be practiced and exercised just like a muscle. If you don’t exercise, your muscles begin to atrophy. It is easy to atrophy a muscle and it is easy to atrophy a skill that’s important to us. Sometimes hiring a coach to keep you motivated is the one reason you hire them. They hold you accountable and keep you motivated towards your goals.

"A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be."

The typical way I work is completely backward. 

I pick my ultimate goal, set a date by when I can realistically accomplish it and then set milestones from the end date in reverse all the way to the date in which I made the decision. 

If I know I need to have 3 things accomplished by the end of next week, that means I have to have 1 task complete today,  another done by Monday and the third task will be complete by the end of the week. 

I make a structure for success and if I don’t accomplish it by the date I said I would, that just means I have to work more on another day or re-assess whether it’s a motivation I am aligned with.

Practicing this task requires something of you every day.

You must train the skill just like any other skill. If you know your spouse hates when you leave dishes in the sink, you will most likely practice the skill of washing your dishes sooner rather than later because the thought of them nagging at you is not the outcome you would prefer. 

Practice, practice, practice! 

I keep all my client’s commitments at the forefront of their brain so it stays present in their mind. For example “Sally, what exactly is it that you’re committed to?” Sally says, “ I want to lose 10 pounds.” I respond,” Ok why does losing 10 pounds matter to you?” Sally, “ Because I want to keep up with my two kids.” Me, “ Why is keeping up with your kids important to you?” on and on I go until I get to the SOURCE of what matters to them. When they are CONNECTED to the source of why they hired me in the first place, it is easy for them to get out of bed in the morning. Doing a session with me seems small compared to what they’re committed to. Not going to the session now equals “I can’t keep up with my kids.” So she shows up. If you don’t know WHY you are working out, you will rarely keep it consistent. If you know exactly WHY and keep that rooted inside your bones, nothing can stop you from doing so. 

Take a moment and think about one thing you’re committed to in your life and think of one action step you can take today to get closer to that goal. 

Go on, do it! I will wait ☺

Ok great, you will either take that step, or you won’t. It is black or white. It’s not right or wrong, it JUST IS.

So there you are at 5:30 am on a Monday in your recently washed sheets and your cheek resting on your Tempur-Pedic pillow…Do you get up or do you sleep in?

Either way, you’re motivated.


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