Hi, I’m LC, and sometimes I have a hard time getting motivated. Relatable?
I don’t wake up early every Wednesday because I’m motivated. I get up and struggle into my leggings to go workout because I am determined. I am determined to offer inclusive, fun, and challenging workouts for the rad people who show up to November Project each week. This might seem like semantics, but for me, determination beats motivation, and #science is on my side.
Have you ever heard of self-determination theory? It proposes that humans have three basic needs: Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness. When we are in an environment that supports these needs, we have the capacity to become intrinsically motivated, and in turn, do things and stuff.
When I tell people about November Project, I often hear: “Good for you, I could never do that.” To which I think, “Yes. You certainly could.” I’m not special. I #JustShowUp and do the things. This way of thinking was a bit simplistic and I ran the risk of thinking that everyone who declined my invite didn’t want to do the thing. They’d tell me they were going to show up, but then 6:30 a.m. would come on Wednesday morning and no dice.
Self-determination theory (SDT) gives us insight into why it may not be as simple as just wanting to do something. There are necessary elements that are required to inform a person’s motivation, and thus determination, to do the thing(s). Understanding this, we can question which of our needs is not being fulfilled and is thwarting (word of the day) our motivation.
In this way, NP is the gift that keeps on giving… for many, it is set up in a way that fosters self-determination, which may explain why the people that love it, love it very much. It also potentially explains why NP participation often changes the way members participate in physical activity and community in their daily lives.
Allow me to break it down:
When you go to NP, you get to assert your autonomy – you choose if and how to show up. Want to scale your pushups? You go Glenn Coco. We all work hard and only you know what that means for you. You feel in control.
Additionally, you increase your sense of relatedness by meeting new people who share common values, interests, goals, routines, etc. This fosters close relationships… dare I say friendships that may extend beyond the weekly workout. You feel supported.
Next, you’re increasing your competence. By virtue of showing up, you’re getting fitter, things feel a bit easier, and suddenly you’re setting new goals to challenge yourself. You used to think racing 5Ks was your threshold, but now you’re signed up for three half-marathons before your 31st birthday, and you’re wondering who you’ve become! You feel capable.
All of this sounds pretty credible, right? In an effort to convince you, I’ll identify that I used a convenience sample of 1 to do a qualitative exploration of longitudinal engagement in November Project workouts across a variety of North American cities.
Translation: I wrote from my personal/limited experience doing NP for the past 4+ years (but swindled you with fancy academic jargon). Here are more credible supporting resources to back up my suggestions:
By this logic, I’ve gained personal insight into why November Project works for me. The fulfillment of my psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competency fire up my intrinsic motivation (& determination). I get a good workout, fit friends, and the pride of my accomplishments. Building my motivation muscle has allowed for a certain skills-transfer into other areas of my life. This concept doesn’t just relate to exercise, but to my academic, professional, and personal contexts as well.
Understanding SDT also allows me to understand that while I believe that NP is for everyone, I also know it’s not FOR everyone. There are those that get this motivation bump through other means, they’ve figured out what works for them, and that’s excellent. A follow-up note is that novelty plays a role in keeping up both satisfaction and motivation in the long term.
You gotta keep things fresh, challenging, and enjoyable, which is why you’re invited, as usual, to workout with us every Wednesday at 6:29 a.m., here in Montréal. We’ll be there, because, as extensively explained above, we’re v. determined to create this space to encourage your own determination. Meta, hey?!
Yours in #Science,