I always take inventory of the kind of social support that a new client has when embarking on a journey to greater fitness. I don’t probe, or pry, but I want to know if they have a reliable support system outside of the gym. There is a reason for this:
Social support is extremely important to intrinsic motivation!
In the context of Self-Determination Theory, “Relatedness” is one of the most critical components, along with autonomy and competency. We all want to feel like we are a part of something. Arguably, one of the greatest searches that we undertake, as humans, is the quest to see where we fit into the world. Think about it: each of us wants to know who we are, and, in turn, how we fit into the grand scheme of things. While it may seem “tough” to go it alone, trying to be the lone wolf is not going to keep you invested for the long haul.
You need to have a corner, whether it is a coach to rely on, or an entire team to be a part of. Incidentally, this is why CrossFit has been so successful. Love them or hate them, they have created an entire community where people are encouraged, held accountable, and cheered on every time they set foot into the gym. That is powerfully motivating.
The harder the goal, the more important the social support
I remember a time when I prepped for a bodybuilding show. Anyone who has participated in this sport can tell you how grueling the process of dieting can be. I have nothing but respect for bodybuilders: it is the hardest sport I have ever attempted.
Because a contest prep involves flawlessly dieting and being “on” 24 hours a day, having a good group of people to support you is absolutely essential to you being successful.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have this:
The woman I was dating at the time, another trainer, was adamantly against bodybuilding. She would constantly tell me that dieting down to that low of a body fat level was unhealthy. As well, she would continuously tell me that bodybuilding was “stupid”, “vain”, and “narcissistic”. You can probably guess what this did to my motivation. At the end, she couldn’t come to the show because she had other engagements, but, honestly, I was relieved. I didn’t want her there. I didn’t look my best, I was miserable, and I just wanted to get it over with.
But I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of social support.
Listen, the actual amount of social support you will need is highly individual and factor in many things including goal length, difficulty, and individual skill. Yet, regardless of this, it is critical to feel a sense of relatedness in order to keep our intrinsic motivation booming. Ask yourself:
- Who is in my corner?
- Do I have shoulders to lean on?
- Am I a part of a team?
Find yourself and find where you fit in. You are not alone…get the support you need.
Think about it.