Parkinson's Law - Self Motivation Vs. No Motivation

Parkinson's Law - Self Motivation Vs. No Motivation

I am a mobile personal trainer and I hear from my clients pretty much 99% of the time that they need “motivation” and they look to me to be their “Tony Robbins.” They are sadly disappointed when I tell them I have no ways to motivate or inspire them and that there is no such thing as motivation when it comes to pretty much anything in life.

They are always taken aback.

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The usual response is, “Of course there is. I mean, you come in to my house and will MAKE me workout and eat right!”


I am there a fraction of the time, you are paying me to be there and if you tell me to go away, I will. If you pay me enough, I will follow you around and slap Twinkies out of your hand, but I am pretty sure you wont feel too motivated when I do that.

My job is to educate you on how to get healthy so that you don't need me anymore. I want my clients to navigate their stressful life with a different mindset and different coping skills that they may not have previously had before.

It's uber lame to think that you will be motivated throughout this process. In fact, you may be angry, frustrated, sad and depressed about the whole thing - THAT is real. That is actually what I would rather see, versus jumping around on a couch and chanting that you will never eat another Twinkie again.

Let's talk about a dude name Parkinson, shall we?


Parkinson's Law and Motivation

Parkinson’s Law was originated in 1955 by a guy who just so happened to have the last name of Parkinson (go figure). Good ol’ Cyril Parkinson explained in an essay that, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

What the heck does THAT mean?

Well, it means if you have homework that is due tomorrow, you will likely do what it takes to get it done. But if it's due next week, you will take your sweet time and it will take you the whole week to do it.

If you get nothing out of this non-motivation speech of mine, it's this - action trumps everything. Like everything.

When I train a client and they are laissez faire, (super laid back almost to the point of laziness), then I have to find a pain point for them to get off the pot, so to speak and get the party started. Get them fired up to get their workout on, or eat right for the whole week.

Sadly, what they think of as motivation are really scare tactics on my part. “Your body fat will be taken next week” or “we do our next weigh-in tomorrow” are common scare tactics I use.

What does Parkinson’s law have to do with motivation?

1. Nothing

Parkinson’s law has nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with human nature. If you know this, you can manipulate this in your own life.

I did this unknowingly when I was losing my weight and I do it even now. I signed up for things and paid for them (because I am cheap and knew I would slack off if I didn’t pay) so that I would TRAIN accordingly. Otherwise, if I wanted to get “healthy” that was to broad, too nebulous.

I needed something that was concrete, an action I had to take. Sign up for Weight Watchers, sign up for that 1/2 marathon, sign up for the bodybuilding contest or the powerlifting meet. It was painful. I didn’t know if I could do it, but somehow I got things done by the deadline.

2. Action trumps everything

Even Tony Robbins uses this. He makes you walk on coals, stay up late and do a lot of interactive exercises with each other, and has accountability groups.

Action, action action.

Do things NOW. That is why I do a lot of action oriented things with my clients, because:

  1. They don’t want to, but somehow they get it done in the time allotted, and...
  2. Their self esteem increases because they did something hard that they didn’t think they could just by taking action.
  3. Doing SOMETHING is better than sitting around with your thumb up your butt and complaining about your situation.

You feel better about yourself when you are working toward your goal rather than yapping about it.

I like that Parkinson’s law pretty much works on every aspect of your life - from health, to finances to your personal life. If you know that your nature is to be sedentary, you can change the variables and have action triumph all day every day.

Health, losing weight, gaining muscle can be done just by setting deadlines, paying for meets or contests, and writing out a plan of action. Action gives you a boost in self confidence, and it is like a rolling stone - a positive thing that keeps on giving.

Motivation, on the other hand is a fickle friend. Its exciting in the moment, like dating Keith Richards, I would imagine, but then, it goes away as quickly as it came, probably again, like Keith Richards.

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