May 11, 2009

The secret to motivation?

Photo credit: Gaetan Lee

Recently, I read a memoir written by a woman who faked a college diploma and BS'ed her way into a series of high-paying jobs. (Yes, let's say that those initials stand for Bachelor of Science.)

Or at least that's what the woman claimed that she did. I don't know how much you can trust a narrator if she's admitted to being a liar.

She ended up managing people who had received a whole lot more education in accounting procedures than she had, and who assumed, based on her faked background, that she knew more than they did.

Her way of dealing with this discrepancy was to delegate her managerial tasks to people who could do them better than she could. Basically, she conned them into doing her job by motivating them to want to do it.

As is my wont, I wondered if I could find any useful lessons from her story, any tips for how to manage my own lazy self when it comes to disciplining myself to get exercise.

Oh, if I could figure out a way to delegate exercising?
That would be
sooo cool.

Photo credit: wisemandarine

What motivates a lazy person to work out?

She wrote, "Figure out what motivates the person" and use that.

The problem I see is that I'm motivated by:
1. Sleeping in
2. Lazing about
3. Reading books
4. Leaving brilliant albeit silly comments on other people's blogs, and
5. Listening to music

Sadly, I don't see a way to apply any of my current motivators to get me working out.

On the other hand, after reading this memoir I made a deduction. (I think that's the word I want.) The woman succeeded in her job, got promoted, and made lots of money. She did not get caught because the people she worked for never questioned her qualifications. And no one questioned her because she came across as having loads of self-confidence.

Assuming that what she wrote was true, it seems to me that you can draw the inference that people who are confident get farther in life.

Fake it 'til you make it? Oh please, how trite can you get, Merry?

Can I apply that to exercising? If I am confident that this workout I am dreading is really and truly going to provide me with a kick-ass ass, abs without flabs, and the ability to run without glowing like an overexcited nuclear reactor, then yes, I probably will go out and work that exercise routine One More Time.

What's your secret for motivation?

When you work out, do you use some kind of motivator to get you moving? Or are you all so good that you don't need any incentive to work out?

Me, I always need motivation. Discouragement is easy when the muscles are sore and there is no visible sign of improvement. That's when I tend to stop exercising and start plotting goals that I can achieve, e.g. experimenting in how much pizza one woman can eat in one sitting. (Easily achieved goals. Very important.)

So... the one body part I need to work on first is:

My plan to motivate myself

Next time I need to whip up some enthusiasm for the workout, I am going to try to believe -- no, that's not strong enough -- I'm going to drill firmly into my head the absolutely crystal clear certainty that doing this exercise will result in my looking more like this:
Photo credit: RockyMountainHigh

And looking less like this:
Photo credit: benleto

What do you think? Am I onto something here, some secret I can put into a book and sell for $19.99 a copy? Or is this all... Yaaaaawn just One More Rehash of Old Familiar Stuff?


  1. Geez, you guys all go to sleep way too early... :(

  2. OMG Merry, you guys crack me hella up (what? "hella" is nor cal speak, right?). Humor motivates me, so thanks for that (though looking less like Jaba is always a good motivator as well...).
    And you know, now that I think of it, i'm not so sure it was delegation that enabled the woman to succeed, but her recognition of her flaws/weak spots and reliance on others to help her out. I know i am more motivated when others offer their help (or offer to join me at the gym). I also know that knowing my sweets weakness gives me the foresight to prevent sweet attacks. Ah, but this positive attitude is so easy for me to have while i sit here lazily cuddled on my bed, sipping coffee, writing about black bean brownies...

  3. Wait... Annabel, don't go to sleep yet! What the heck are black bean brownies? Are they tasty? Are they sweet? Hey, wake up for a sec, would ya?
    ...damn. Now I'm going to wonder about that.

  4. They are sweet AND tasty if you're into the whole beans for dessert camp! ;)
    Apparently they are chock-full of energizing elements as well as I am too spazzy to go to sleep!

  5. Huh. I didn't even know there was a beans-for-dessert camp. Not sure I should go camping there; I can do the insomnia bit all on my own, alas.


  6. Motivation or not, I would love to read a book written by you guys....I can imagine getting a whole ab workout just from laughing!


    not that I have any opinion on the subject.

    humor + popculture references + a smattering of science = what motivates me :)

  8. I think there is always something to gain from someone else's fortune (even if it's fake!) Love this post Merry!


  9. Oh my goodness, is Merry Sunshine advocating Positive Thinking here at Cranky Fitness?


    It is true that when I have more sense a fitness goal is within reach, I'm way more motivated.

    The problem is, if I aim to high or expect fast progress, then there's sometimes a backlash when the results just aren't happening. So for Cranky Ol' Me, it's a balance between Fantasy goal visualization (to have MizFit's arms) and more realistic, boring visualization-- like good health and more energy and not outgrowing my current pant size--which is actually achievable.

    But rock on, positive, self-confident people! Every study I read says you're on the right track!

  10. This reminds me of my daughter who can so easily motivate (con) her brother into doing her chores.

    A friend of mine boasts that "Fake it till ya make it" attitude....problem is, she's been faking it for over 30 years!

  11. Secret to motivation? Ultimately - fear of an early death.

    Came when I realized I'd let myself go way, way too long. Once you get the ball rolling, the momentum works in your favor.

    But of course, momentum works both ways. Skip a few and its tough to get started again...

  12. Holy Hotness Jillian...My Girl Crush on her just jumped vastly.

  13. thing is this woman sounded like all she ever did was fake her resume. she obviously did her job, as seen from the numerous positions she held. i don't know one person in authority that doesn't delegate tasks, and i've met several real college grads that fall to pieces or look like a deer in headlights if their printer gets jammed with paper.

    if "faking it" = determination and the desire to succeed, then at what point, when you accomplish what you set out to do, it is it still faking? kinda like the kid that went to vocational school that still can't fix a furnace, vs the kid that went on jobs with his dad as a teen and is a little electical wiz at 18.

    most of us are "educated" when it comes to what it takes to be successful in weight loss, fitness and living a healthy life. the difference are those that have the resolve and determination to get there, and those that are still staring and blaming that paper jam.

  14. I've heard of "doctors" who have worked for years without any training! The ones I've heard about, eventually get caught. Who knows how many are still out there. They have never been surgeons, that's harder to fake, I think.

    Faking it till you make it has worked for me, and I totally support the behavior, trite or no.

  15. Motivation Follows Action.

    I know of no other way than to just get up and do one thing. I give myself permission before I start that I can stop after the one thing, but once I start, motivation to keep going follows.


  16. I think it depends.

    I went to an Ivy League school, and the ones who lived and breathed that mantra applied it to their coursework. Naturally, they didn't get their first pick of jobs (and some are still looking).

    In moderation (the ones who used that mentality on job interviews), it worked really well.

  17. I'm not motivated at all...but I still make the effort because the alternative will lead me to looking strikingly similar to Jabba.

  18. LOL!!! The jabba the hut (god, I don't know how to spell star wars characters' names) and Jillian pictures cracked me up! Yeah, she's pretty much a motivator for me. She's hot. I was also watching the female runners who finished first at a 5k on Sat and their stomachs were ripped! They all had 6 pack abs. I want to look like that. I look like I have a tub of Jello hidden under my shirt when I run. "Don't pay any attention to the Jello. It's really not fat. Just a dessert I'm delivering down the street here. Carry on."
    You know, underneath all of this extra "padding" I DO look like Jillian. I have 6 pack abs. I just have to unwrap myself and get down to that layer.

  19. [whine]
    Apparently nothing motivates me to use the BORINGBORINGBORING exercise bike during the pollen season when I can't walk outdoors (preferred exercise) if I want to breathe through my nose the next day.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  20. Oh, you are too funny! Love the Abby Normal pic. And speaking of Abby Normal, I know full well from experience that the shrinking violets get stomped on. So one day I read this quote from a woman admiral that went something like "It's easier to apologize than get permission" and it changed my life (I know I'm starting to sound like a laundry detergent ad now). I can still get intimidated by alpha dogs but find if I call their bluff they back right down.

    But how does this motivate the Ruebenesque me now? That little extra bit of confidence clears the decks of much self-doubt and meekness that has been holding me back for so long.

    And yes, I'd gladly fork over $19.99 for your book.

  21. This post cracks me up. It reminds me of all the managers I've had, the incompetent management that as long as they pretended they knew what they were doing and hired good people, they got all the credit. Yet priming a incompetent manager's brain pre-meeting can be a task almost as insurmountable as a Mt. Shasta climb by a 400 lb person.

    Having said that, this post is kind of a rehash yet at the same time, what motivates me to exercise is death. Death can be very motivating. Can you write a long drawn out tome about how motivating death can be? I'll bet you can!

    I loved your chatter round midnight about blackbean brownies. I have the recipe but have not been that tempted.

  22. Awesome post - the jaba photog is FABULOUS! And Jillian's body is just rediculous. I wish exercise could be delegated, too. Sigh. Loved how that lady took the old Tom Sawyer thinking to a whole new level of BS (bullshit not bachelor of science haha). Wow.

  23. The only thing that got me to run this morning was the fact that my friend was waiting for me at the park gates. And she cleverly left her mobile off so I couldn't call and cancel last minute.

    I have really smart friends. :)

  24. Damn, Merry, you are a hoot.

    So would Tom Sawyer be able to get someone else to exercise for him? I suspect he'd get someone to stay home and doing the boring cycle or treadmill so he could head outside and have an adventure. Little would he know he was really exercising himself.

    What motivates me? The way I feel afterward. Lifting heavier than other women in the gym. Having the "gym rat" guys tell me I work very hard and they admire that. (vanity and external validation, so sad.)

    Truthfully by now it's a habit. I listen to my body and have taken almost 2 weeks off. Wondered if I'd go back. But I do...

  25. I think the mind, and thinking the right thoughts, is very important when it comes to getting motivated. But it seems that it's much easier to have that work at the start - the problem is more about keeping it going. It's one thing to get your brain motivated today but how do you keep that going long term?

    One of the biggest things for me, as far as sticking to workouts, is to have a goal to work toward.

    And having something I actually enjoy doing is also big.

    Running on a treadmill, looking a wall, going nowhere - it would be super hard to want to keep going back to that everyday.

  26. To stop and think about what motivates me has to be a better tool than thinking about ways I can't fit in my workout every day.

    I have a friend who had surgery to replace a heart valve (it had been close to useless for 60+ years)- because she is vigilant about staying fit and healthy, her recovery has been really swift (not fast enough as far as she's concerned).

    Much of my motivation for staying fit is to keep my doctor (as nice as she is) out of my life as much as possible.

  27. The biggest motivation for me right now? An easier labor and delivery. *sigh* Unfortunately it hasn't been working very well when I'm up half the night with the toddler. Although all the painting I'm doing at the new house ought to be *something* of a workout!

    Long term - being able to run and jump and play with my kids. Their energy is boundless. While they're little that means I have to add in some of my own cardio/strength training before they wake up. I expect as they grow up we will do more as a family.

  28. I delegate my invisible play mate to exercise for me.
    She's working hard and looking goooooood. I get to relax and enjoy my laziness.
    It works for me at the moment. :-)

  29. Ooooh, the Delegating to an Invisible Playmate approach. I like it. :)

  30. Well, I'm motivated by music, so I only allow myself to listen to my favorite songs while running. I'm not sure whether that's a reward or a punishment, really. I notice a lot of runners at local races do the equivalent of lying about their degrees-- ahem, lining up at the front of the pack despite a pace that's slower than even me.

  31. Oh, I WISH I could delegate the exercising and the dieting, sigh.

    What motivates me at the moment is feeling fitter after a lengthy period of ill health. I can hardly wait to be able to get up my first mountain with camera attached to one eye!

    Oh, and my much younger boyfriend takes a fair bit of keeping up with (now, I am not delegating any of that activity, ahem).

  32. Yes, yes, yes on the "fake it 'til you make it" approach. I think motivation is an improperly used word. In my gym I hear all too often (I wish I could deny this and assert my position as the ultimate motivator, but I can't), "I'm just not motivated right now." Got it. But "motivation" is a moody creature that comes and goes and is often mistaken for "inspiration." Look, here's the deal: NO ONE wants to work out (except a very small percentage of people). That's the reality. But EVERYONE wants the benefits of exercise, so what to do? Maybe we should retire the word "motivation" and replace it with "commitment." Commitment doesn't require motivation, it's a characteristic that means that you will take action on something whether you "feel like it" or not! It's like school and work; in general we don't want to do either, but we want the benefits from both, ie, education and money. Next time you know you need to exercise, don't ask yourself if you "feel like it" or if you are "motivated" to do so, just ask yourself if you're "committed." If you are, then desire to exercise is immaterial, you'll do it anyway. If you aren't, then don't, but accept the consequences of your decision.

    Great topic. Thanks.

  33. Funny post. I agree with Annabel--this woman used other people (in a bad way) but I like to use other people (in a good way) by having several different workout buddies who 1. make me feel bad if I don't exercise with them and 2. are fitter than I by a little bit so that they inspire me to keep working out. It's why you are always smart to spend your life around people who are smarter than you. Same goes for losing weight.

    Boda weight loss blog

  34. I have seen this fake it till you make it & yes, I have been there when I was younger but I could never keep it up because it felt morally wrong to me. My parents raised me too good!

    As for motivation, it has changed with time. When I was heavy & younger, it was just to be "skinny" and get dates & feel better about myself. As I got older, the health benefits kicked in too & when I got into weights, it was that I just loved having muscles.

    BUT, I must admit even now, I see that fat kid in the mirror at times & hear the teasing at times & that does sometimes still motivate me. Amazing how long those feelings can stay with you!!! But, mostly, I just like feeling healthy & fit & having arms that are better than some of those young guys in the gym.. HA!

  35. In the past I worked at a job where a guy faked his degree as well. He faked it for almost a year, and got paid the same as I did before they figured him out. I couldn't believe that he could get away with it for that long, but, that's what cons do! Love your blog! I'd love to fake exercise, too, and reap the benefits! Hehe!

  36. I second the motion for a cranky fit book! But now I'm curious - what happened to the author? Did she finally get busted?? And is she now writing a book on karma?

  37. No, she never got busted, but she did quit right before her division was due to be audited so she probably thought she /would/ be busted. She wrote the book about a year or so afterward, apparently because (like Jody), she couldn't take the feelings of guilt.

    The link up at the top of the post takes you to an article about her experiences. She really lied extensively -- even her husband and her mother believed that she had a college degree.

  38. Hm, what motivates me?

    1. Cute guys in class (I in fact joined a boxing class for this very reason...yeah yeah, I'm supposed to work out for me, right? Well, I can work out for me AND get eye candy at the same time, right?)

    2. I get paid for it.

    3. I feel fat if I don't.

    4. If I'm in a bad mood, exercise makes me feel better.

    5. The gym is one of my social zones.

    6. I love food.

    7. I'd rather be strong and kick ass than get blown over by the wind.

  39. So that Jabba picture totally motivates me NOT to look like that. haha

    Write a book!!! :)

  40. Thanks, Arena Fitness, for taking the time to write. I really liked what you said about replacing "motivation" with "commitment."

  41. haha it's funny that you posted a pic of jillian - she must be the universal motivator...i wrote about her too:


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