If I had a dollar for every time I heard some version of “How do I find my mojo?” well, let’s just say I wouldn’t need to buy a Powerball ticket this week. I understand the desire behind the question, because if there’s a solid answer out there, we want it! We’re all looking for that secret ingredient that will have us out the door no matter the weather, time of day, or how we’re feeling inside.

If only I could click on Amazon, subscribe to a year’s worth of mojo, and two days later have it appear on my doorstep. 

As I’ve gotten older, and a little wiser, I’ve learned a thing or two about the role motivation plays in my life. I can boil it down to one statement: motivation is a liar.

Which is not what we have been taught. For some reason, we think motivation will show up and then we can get started on our goals. Over time, we beat ourselves up because we can’t “find” our motivation. Motivation is missing, we continue to wait for it—and, in the meantime, make zero progress. Motivation feels like a bad boyfriend who promised he would pick me up on Friday night but is a no-show. 

Here’s the truth: Motivation is not something that is typically present before a workout. Rather, motivation is the reward that happens after I do the work. And in order to do the work, I need to know my why.

Sound confusing? Here’s an example:

I have a tight lower back. It’s bugged me off and on for a while, but in the last few months it has been especially crabby. I knew I needed to add a stretching routine to my day, but I felt zero motivation to do it. Even worse, at the end of the day I would be hunched over like an old crone trying to get into my pajamas and realize another day had passed and I wasn’t doing anything about it. I needed a plan. I needed my why.

Why do I want to stretch? I want to stretch to feel better. I want better range of motion. I want more flexibility, and I want to quit putting my hands on my lower back and groaning. Stretching = feeling better throughout the day. Those are really good reasons and they’re extremely tangible.

Next, I used the trick of pairing a habit I love with a stretching routine. I love my morning coffee. A lot. I never, ever miss a day. Adding stretching to my already established routine of java meant I wouldn’t forget.

While my coffee brews I get out my yoga mat and turn on a 10-minute video like this one. Once I have my mug in hand, I get started and unapologetically sip my coffee between stretches. The best part? After just 7 days my back was ridiculously better, and that means I’ll keep doing the stretches because I’m motivated by the results.

[Want some more workout motivation? Listen to this AMR Trains podcast: How to Overcome Excuses + Intertia.]


Do I want to do my strength training? No. Do I want strong shoulders? Yes.

Other Whys that help me stick to my fitness routine (and avoid having to find motivation): 

  • The post-workout high. I love how I feel after a good sweat session. No matter how much I’m dreading a workout or am tempted to skip it, the feeling I get when I’m done is 100x better than the alternative.
  • Time with Mother N. Being outside is an instant mood boost for me. I’ve learned that 30 minutes in terrible weather is still better than staying comfortable inside. I’m much happier on the days I get fresh air.
  • Strength, strength, baby. Strength training bores me to tears, but I want to remain strong and active my entire life (and selfishly, I’d love some cut shoulders!). To ensure I’ll actually do it, I pair lifting dumbbells with my current Netflix obsession to make it more fun. I’m always motivated to watch Netflix, so this is a no-brainer.
  • Finish line goals. I sign up for a race. Nothing motivates me more than the fear of showing up on race day undertrained. I’m much more willing to do the hard workouts when a race date is on my calendar and I’ve spent money on the registration.
  • A full bucket daily. Doing things daily that help my body feel good is a lot like filling up a bucket. Stretching fills my bucket. Movement in fresh air fills my bucket. Sweating after a workout fills my bucket. And as my bucket is brimming and I tap into that feeling, I’m motivated to do it again the next day and the next and the next. Having a why breeds consistency and consistency breeds motivation.

My whys change over time. Training for a marathon looks a lot different than a season of injury or rest. But no matter what my goals are, it’s an opportunity to find my why and dial in the steps that need to be taken so that sneaky mojo can’t keep lying to me.

What helps you stay motivated? Tell us your why in the comments below.