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November Newsletter – Motivation Is A Myth


This month's newsletter is going to cover an interesting topic - motivation.

Every time I talk to someone, either professionally or socially, about exercise, nutrition or whatever, they talk about a need to get "more motivated", in order to get better results.

This is a cultural issue, not an individual issue, so please don't take offence if this is you.

However, motivation is a myth, at least for achieving anything substantial.

Is Motivation Really A Myth?

Have you ever dreamt of winning the lottery? If so, in your dream, did you wait until Monday/next month/the new year to go and collect your winnings and start spending?

Probably not, right?

You would have been plenty "motivated" to go and collect your winnings straight away, because it was something you wanted to do.

This is exactly why motivation is a myth.

Living in Australia (or similar countries), we have huge freedom to determine what we do and when we do it, of course, there are people doing it tough in a variety of circumstances, but realistically, if you are reading this, you are doing better than most people in the world.

This means, when we are doing something, it is because we want to do it - consciously or unconsciously - and not something else.

So when you find yourself on the couch, watching episode after episode on Netflix, this is because that is what you want to do.

When you find yourself in the gym, sweating and breathing hard, this is because that is what you want to do.

So why do we find ourselves doing things that don't really serve us, or our goals in the long term?

(I haven't met anyone who has said they want to be less fit in the future, or have less money saved etc)

Is it really a lack of motivation?

No, it's the way we are wired.

In the picture above, you can see how our brains are divided into 3 sections (also, understand this division is a simplification, as each area interacts with the others, there is no true separation).

The "reptilian brain", comprised of the brainstem and the cerebellum takes care of autonomic body functions - regulating breathing, heart rate, blood presure, co-ordinating movement etc

The limbic system, simply put, is the emotional centre of the brain, while the neocortex is the "thinking" part of our brains. 

To re-iterate, this is massively simplified, but it helps illustrate my point.

The neocortex is the slower, rational and analytic part of our brain, whilst the limbic/reptilian areas are faster thinking and emotive.

We make decisions emotionally, then use logic to defend them (think about when you bought something - it felt good, then you use rationalisations to explain the benefits to your friends/family).

So when we say we are "lacking motivation" to do something, our reptilian/limbic brain is saying, right now, this moment, I want to be comfortable and our newer brain agrees, rationalising away.

This happens when we don't have clarity of purpose, of what we want.

To overcome this, we need two things:

  1. A clear goal, which is usually driven by emotion.
  2. A clear path of action.
When people watch/read/hear something "motivational", it is designed to elicit an emotional response. 

The emotional reason is often mistaken as motivation, which then runs out as the emotion fades, but what really happens is this:

You get caught up in the emotion, take action, any action, without actually thinking about why you want to do something.

If this is a big, ambitious goal, then obviously it will take time to achieve. 

When you don't get instant results, your emotions fade, and you go looking for the next emotional hit.

This can be in the form of TV on the couch (instant gratification) or something else unproductive. 

In effect, your emotions steal your attention and energy away from you - swaying you left and right and leading you to nowhere. 

If you have a clear pathway however, then your job isn't to stay motivated, but rather follow the path.

These actions then become habitual, and we no longer require willpower or motivation to perform them.

So, when someone says they need motivation, what they are really saying is they don't have an emotional reason to do X, or, they don't have a clear path of action to achieve X.

Fatigue - The Exception

There is an exception here - when we are overly fatigued, either mentally or physically, our cognition shuts down, and we revert to more primitive decision making. This can override even the best plans (actually, the best plans allow for fatigue, and manage it).

So, before you go looking up motivational videos and self-help books, make sure you are well rested, well fed and hydrated and that you have clear reasons for why you want to do something. 


Treating pain is a battle of both parts of the brain. When we hurt, the older brain screams at us to do whatever it takes for relief, but, like a child throwing a tantrum, often the more attention we pay to pain, the worse it gets, especially long term.

To successfully treat pain, we have to change our thoughts, behaviours and emotions that surround pain, both consciously and unconsciously.

It can be really simple - sometimes manual therapy is enough to distract the brain and allow it to reconcile pain.

Or it can be really complex, and take lots of work from both a physical and a psychological perspective.

Latest From The Blog

I didn't blog much this month - just the one piece on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

Please share it with anyone you know who has been suffering from this condition, as I am finding that too many people are being treated only at the site of the symptoms - wrist and hand - when there is so much more to it than that.

Updates From The Clinic

Firstly, in response to last month's poll, a pain education course was the winner. Now, I've got to work out how best to put it together and get producing. Thanks to those who voted.

Next, this Sunday (November 6) is the Fitzroy North Primary School fete, and I've donated a 60 minute Functional Movement Assessment to the silent auction.

A functional movement assessment involves performing a range of movements that allow the assessment of movement quality (how well do you move) and movement capacity (what are the limits of your functional ability).

The specifics are: 

  • Functional movement screen: 7 movement screen that assesses your mobility and stability 
  • Y-balance testing: upper and lower body testing that quantifies your mobility and stability 
  • Fundamental capacity testing: a test that quantifies your physical capacities according to 4 quadrants - movement control, postural control, power control and impact control (elasticity) - so that you know where your physical strengths and limitations are.

This information can help:

  • Assess for injury potential in active individuals 
  • Assess for performance potential 
  • Help guide exercise program design to improve performance and reduce injury risk 
  • Serve as a baseline to compare to in the future

This is a great opportunity to support the local community, and could make a great gift.

Check it (and the other items out) here:


Until next time, stay healthy.


PS Thanks to those who replied last month and suggested Blunt umbrellas. I will be getting two in the near future (hopefully it doesn't rain too much until then).

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Integrative Osteopathy · 191 St Georges Rd · Fitzroy North, VIC 3068 · Australia

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