Determined Motivation: The Relationship Between Motivation and Determination

Expert Opinion

What is motivation? It’s one of the most elusive and highly sought-after elements in life. Whether in business, education, fitness, or nutrition people are always seeking to find motivation, and our motivations can change quite frequently. The definition of motivation is “the reasons one has for acting or behaving in a certain way” or “the willingness of someone to do something.”

I have always said that determination is what you want because determination is what keeps you going when motivation faulters. Determination is that drive to the gym or five mile run when you were tempted to hit snooze again. Determination is picking the grilled chicken sandwich when the pizza or burger sounds so much better. It’s way more fruitful to focus on determination because motivation can be fickle. 

One thing I have noticed in my career is that internal motivation, like being a better athlete or improving health, tend to stick around longer than external motivation, like obtaining abs or weight loss. Now, in no way am I saying that motivation isn’t an outstanding tool in achieving goals. I just think it needs to be understood in order to be optimized.

Motivation is a wave you should ride every time if it is taking you in the right direction. The important thing is not to pack up and head home when the wave dissipates, but to stay focused and catch the next wave when it comes around.

I am reminded of a few debates I’ve had with fellow dietitians. I was discussing a client who had expressed interest in keto (very low carb, high fat diet) and she, the Registered Dietitian (RD), went off about how terrible keto is, and how she never lets her clients go near it because it’s meant for treating epilepsy. Another time I got into it with an RD who was vegan and exclusively coached her clients to eat a vegan diet, which I disagreed with. What these stories have in common is that these mindsets are motivation leeches. I have gone over the research and eaten both keto and vegan diets. I’m not a huge fan of either, but if a client comes to me with an idea, nay, a motivation to try and become healthier, it is my job to hear them out. 

First off, every modern diet with research showing positive changes in body composition (reduced fat mass, increased lean mass) have the same core principles: increase in consumption of whole foods, fruits and veggies, and protein. Keto, paleo, vegan, and intermittent fasting come together to agree on increased consumption of plants and protein to improve health.

Now, any of the aforementioned diets can be healthy when followed properly. The reason they are seen in a negative light is because of the abuse of the diet protocols. High fat, low carb ketogenic diets are not an excuse to eat bacon, cheese, and steak all day just as the fact that Oreos are vegan doesn’t make them magically healthier. All diets should be plant-based whether they contain meat or not.

If you find yourself motivated by a diet or new fitness routine, do your due diligence and seek information. Hire a dietitian for diet help or trainer/coach for fitness, these people are licensed and trained to help you take on such challenges effectively. It is important to understand that, like seeing a therapist or doctor, you have to feel comfortable and connected with someone when placing them in charge of your health. 

I personally prefer the non-diet approach, but I am also inclined to help any client be the healthiest vegan/keto/paleo/ etc. they can be. I do this because I understand how much a change in diet can motivate. I have seen the influence of “my co-worker lost 50 lbs on keto so I want to try it.” I have also tried almost every diet with an inkling of research behind it, and I can say that I find most of them unsustainable in the long term. 

That being said, they were great hands on education for understanding myself and reaching a more intuitive eating pattern. Intermittent fasting taught me how to listen to true hunger cues and not eat out of boredom. Keto taught me how very high carb meals and drinking beer leaves me bloated and inflamed. Vegan taught me unique and creative ways to incorporate more veggies into my diet. So, in short, riding these motivational waves made my determination stronger. I am more understanding of myself through the trial and error that motivation offers.

Let motivation challenge you to try something new and determination make it familiar. Let motivation propel you up and determination carry you forward. Og Mandino is quoted with saying “failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” 

Find your motivation and see it through, stay determined when that motivation fails, and find joy in the process. Remember we learn the most about ourselves in difficult failures, and no failure is complete if you’re determined to try again.