got motivation? you may not need it.
“Ugghhh. I have zero motivation to [fill in the blank: eat healthy, exercise, get more sleep….]”
This is the answer most of my clients give to the second question I always ask them in a session, “What’s been challenging since we talked last time?”
And yes, this lack of motivation has seriously increased during the pandemic.
terrible coaching questions
Health coaches can be really annoying. We love to ask questions that clients don’t want to answer.
Such as the first question I always ask, “What’s new and good?” (Nothing! I want to complain about everything that is terrible and hasn’t changed for years!)
Or when told, “I don’t know” by a client, “Well, if you knew the answer, what would it be?”
Or in response to, “Why is it so hard to get healthy?”—”How would it look if it were easy?”
What follows is usually a really uncomfortable silence—one we’re trained not to fill with our own words and opinions—and then, almost miraculously, a really good answer, one that comes from deep inside, a place we don’t regularly go because we don’t slow down or pause long enough to access it.
from motivation to invitation
I work almost exclusively with women over 40, and their stories—of their past, their present, and what they can envision for their future—are full of two expressions that really trigger me: should and used to.
- “Should” is a sure-fire clue that they are taking in advice from the outside and ignoring what their intuition is trying to tell them. If they really listened to their inner wisdom, they might say “I want to” or “I choose to,” “I could” or “I will.”
- “Used to” tells me that they are taking advice from a source that masquerades as intuition and is actually another external force—their past selves, or perhaps more accurately their construction of their past selves.
After being influenced by these external ideas of what health looks like (whether it’s a book, article, website, coach, physician, guru, or celebrity), many women then look for the motivation to get there.
They approach getting healthy as if it were a Olympic training routine with a tough coach, someone (external or internal) who pushes them—hard. Come ON! What’s WRONG with you? Get it together! Push harder, jump higher, run faster….
That approach may work for some. I remember watching a video in our childbirth class in which the father—a football coach—was yelling at the mother throughout her labor. Come on! Breathe! Push! Push harder!
After the video was over, the teacher asked us for our reactions. Crickets.
Finally, one woman turned to her husband and said, “If you do that, I WILL kill you.”
The teacher—clearly one who had some training in bio-individuality—said, “I’ll bet most of you feel that way, but you know what? This woman knew her husband coached this way, and it worked for them.”
And my point is that this external “motivation” does not work for the majority of women I work with—they push themselves hard enough, thank you, and what they really hunger for is some kindness and encouragement.
So my reframe (another coaching question, coming up!) is this: What if you were to invite yourself to [nourish yourself, move your body, rest] rather than motivate yourself to [eat healthy, exercise, get more sleep]?
Feel into the energetics of this: to me, motivation feels very masculine, a direct-line, pushing energy; invitation has a more flowing, feminine, pulling energy. Motivation feels hard; invitation is what it would feel like if it were easy.
“But what if my answer to the invitation is always no?” I hear you!
And my suggestion then is to consider the invitation you’re extending: is it what your intuition is longing to respond to with a deep, sacred YES?
the mother of all coaching questions
Fundamentally, the work I do with clients has to do with (re)claiming their optimal, holistic health and well-being.
When a client struggles with every coaching exercise, whether it’s envisioning what optimal health looks like, setting some goals or intentions to get there, breaking those down into manageable bites, taking even the smallest of baby steps, I’m forced to pull out the mother of all coaching questions:
If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?
Like most coaching questions, this is not original to me. I have heard it asked numerous times and was reminded of it most recently in a book titled The One Thing by Gary Keller of real estate fame.
Ooof. That one brings most women up short. Their most common response is, “I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
The important thing about answering that question, though, is to not treat it as motivation but to see it as an invitation.
make the connection
Ready to explore some of these awful questions? I invite you to tell me YOURstory—it’s like HIStory, but yours.