Getting Heart Healthy: Motivation to Change Your Habits

Health Professional

On your journey to heart health and weight loss it all really comes down to changing your habits. If you've ever tried to make a diet or lifestyle change you know it's not an easy process. You need a compelling reason to keep moving forward.

What is your compelling reason?

There are two different types of motivators - intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated by internal factors. This form of motivation drives you to take action for the fun of it or just because you know it's good for you and the right thing to do. Intrinsic motivation means you do something because of the satisfaction you feel from completing a task. Hobbies are usually motivated by intrinsic factors.

Extrinsic motivation is when you are spurred to change your habits due to external forces, such as wanting to lose weight or lower your cholesterol for your family so they worry less. Another form of extrinsic motivation may be tangible rewards you give yourself for achieving a goal. The Biggest Loser provides a great example of external motivation - lose the greatest percent body weight and win $'s. Other forms of rewards you can use for extrinsic motivation may include new clothes or a new CD/book when a goal is accomplished.

Typically, intrinsic motivators tend to keep you going in the long run, but using both forms of motivation can be essential to your success. Extrinsic motivators may keep you moving forward in the short term, while intrinsic motivators are the reason you stick with it long term.

Take a step back from the craziness of everyday life and really look at the "why" behind your desire to start walking in the evenings or your goal of packing a lunch instead of eating out.

Have you taken action and started to move forward towards your goal? Are you just thinking about it? What type of reward could you put in place to spur you on from an external point of view? What reminder could you put in place to keep you moving forward internally?

Here's a quick example for someone trying to lose weight:

Goal: Walk after supper for at least 20 minutes 5 nights a week.
Extrinsic Motivator: Achieve walking goal for 2 weeks and reward yourself with a new book.
Intrinsic Motivator: Place picture of yourself from 10 years ago (when you were at your ideal body weight) on the refrigerator door as a constant reminder of how great you'll feel once you reach your goal weight.

Be sure to sign up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps at