The Surprisingly Powerful Motivator You’re Leaving Untapped

Carley Hauck, MA
by Carley Hauck, MA
Share it:
The Surprisingly Powerful Motivator You’re Leaving Untapped

“Its odd,” Samantha said, “but whenever I am nervous about an upcoming event where I know I have to be on and present, my focus goes straight to the size of my belly. Is my shirt too tight? Do I look fat? You would think instead I would be thinking, did I prepare enough on my presentation or will I have something interesting to say and talk about.” I nodded and listened.

I hear this type of comment from clients and students a lot (male and female). Usually when I ask a client if she/he loves their body, they’ll start telling me what they don’t like about it first. We want to be five pounds thinner, have bigger biceps, smaller hips, or be a few inches taller. We want to firm up, eat less, and we all wanted this yesterday. By not appreciating what we have and who we are, these changes are impossible.

Most of our habits and the way we think about the world and ourselves is done automatically and without a lot of awareness. Did you know that out of the 82,000 thoughts we have in a day, 70-80% are geared towards the negative? Yes, it is true. I teach a ten-week class at Stanford University titled “Becoming a Better You,” and in the class I share and encourage my students to practice mindfulness and compassion. I believe they are the foundations of real and lasting change.

Mindfulness is being present to our moment-to-moment experience.

Compassion is the ability to be with the suffering of others or ourselves, without a need to change or fix.

Research in the topic of compassion has found that when we start to focus on negative or critical thoughts, our nervous system responds. We move from a calm and open place, to a fearful and contracted place where we don’t feel safe. Furthermore, when we are critical towards ourselves, a stress hormone called cortisol is released. This has been shown to increase the amount of belly fat stored by the body, particularly in women. The good news is compassion is a greater motivator to change than criticism. Also our brains are considered to be quite malleable so we can change our habits if we change how we think about things.

Try the tips below and you will be on your way to compassionate change:

  • Breathe and learn to identify your negative thinking loops. When we can just be with ourselves, we get to learn what thoughts are coming and going Ex: “I will never get promoted” “I am not enough.” “ No one loves and supports me.”
  • Talk back to the negative and create new compassionate mantras. Focus on love and acceptance of who you are and where you are. Try this one: “ I love and accept myself as I am.” Or “I am doing enough today.” Or “I am enough”.
  • Set attainable goals around your health and well-being. Often times we get excited to make changes, but then set ourselves up to fail with our lofty expectations. Be realistic. You might ask, “What can I reasonably do this week?” Then keep doing that over and over, until you feel ready to reach a little higher. Consistency is the key to any real change.
  • Bring appreciation to the parts of your body that help you to be and do what you love. Thank your body. Ex: “I hate how my belly pokes out sometimes. Please forgive me for telling you over and over again that you need to be different than what you are. I appreciate you and how you support me to digest, to lead from my power center, and relax.” (We relax most by deep belly breathing).
  • Surround yourself with people who support you to be who you are and lift you higher. Compassion is infectious.

The most important thing we can accomplish in this lifetime is true self appreciation and self acceptance of ourselves and others. This has nothing to do with whether or not we see the number we want to on the scale.

How do you stay positive and compassionate? Tell me in the comments below.

Want to learn more mindful practices? Sign up for Carley’s FREE Mindful Training workbook.

About the Author

Carley Hauck, MA
Carley Hauck, MA

Carley works as an educator, life coach, and consultant in research and with corporate organizations, such as LinkedIn and Pixar.  She has been working in the field of health and wellness for over 15 years and has a long-standing meditation practice.  Carley teaches on a variety of classes at Stanford University with an emphasis on the tool of mindfulness as it relates to health and well-being. Sign up for Carley’s free mindful training workbook.


40 responses to “The Surprisingly Powerful Motivator You’re Leaving Untapped”

  1. Avatar gem says:

    Can I use create a way to have aome calories as a weekly bonus, like with weight watchers, but using fitness pal?

    • Avatar Sammy says:

      Gem, log any physical activity you do and it calculates the calories and adds them to your ‘allowance’. I’m not sure if they roll over to the following day(s) though. So in theory you could save up the extra calories burnt doing exercise and use them as a treat daily or a bigger treat at the weekend. If the calories don’t roll over just keep a note and add all exercise at once on the day you want your treat. I’ve started using the Pacer app which logs your steps and calories burnt and syncs with My Fitness Pal to automatically add the exercise for you.

    • Avatar Sara says:

      MFP calculates your total calories for the week and if you are over/under. So, if you are doing exercise on a Tues. and you log it but don’t eat the extra calories until Sat., you could still be within your goal for the week, just not for each day.

  2. Avatar Dakota says:

    I like the concept of trying to be more positive. I definitely think it could have a better impact on our health and emotional state of mind. Sometimes when I feel that the world has gotten too much I repeat a single motivational phrase over and over until I believe it and feel more confident. I.e: when I’m studying and completely freaked out because I can’t grasp a concept, instead of belittling myself and saying I’ll never be able to do it or I’m running out of time I say: “I’ve accomplished previous challenges and I’ll accomplish this too.”

  3. Avatar Melody says:

    It seems like it just all clicked,been using fitness pal since Sept… So easy to keep myself in check, everyone ask how did you lose so much , its simple find what your weakness is and stop… Mine was carbs… So I’ve learned to watch them … I don’t understand why all the new fab diets, power drinks, bought meals , and other crazy ways … If you weight to much … Stop eating so much… If your weak, start exercises… It’s simple everyone stop making it hard you know what you have to do … Do it

    • Avatar Ken says:

      This is SO TRUE

    • Avatar JC says:

      Not to knit pick. But healthy people tend to eat more then their unhealthy counterparts.
      Don’t eat less to lose weight, eat more!!
      More veggies, more fruit, more lean meat or protein alternatives.
      When I started to eat right I had a hard time eating all the food I was told to eat.
      Once I got the hang of it I lost weight, got stronger, and felt better.
      All in all, I get your point. It is a good one too 😉

  4. Avatar Rachel says:

    The past couple weeks I’ve really been trying to make myself a more positive person. Everyday I make myself write one thing I like about myself and three things I liked about my day.

    • Avatar Olympia says:

      Hi Rachel! I really like that concept of writing something positive about yourself and the day. I will give it a go/

  5. Avatar KJoy says:

    I have struggled with this for a long time. I hired a trainer, he’s fantastic, I know he works me to muscle failure, I get that but when I fail my mind says I am a failure!! Last night I came home and cried. I knew I worked out hard but beat myself up.

    So I am resolving to put positive affirmations on my mirror, on my phone and taking them on notes to the gym with me!

    • Avatar Mdex says:

      I feel the same way. I hate the feeling of “failure” when I can’t get out the last few reps. I found the blog that was posted September 27 (I think) last year helpful. If you follow the tag after the article above for “Mindfulness”, you’ll find it listed there. I like your idea about using affirmations. I’m going to give that a try 🙂

    • Avatar Sandrarinck says:

      Failure? What you see as failure I see as room to improve.

      In the world of weight training and extensive cardio… Hard work, what you couldn’t do today is a goal you set for another.

      It means that in the long run you will keep improving where others plataeu which means that your routine is worth more than someone who kisses their biceps in the mirror.

      Don’t get me wrong, those people earned the biceps kiss. They didn’t get there doing nothing.

    • Avatar Lou says:

      Joy !
      Did your trainer not teach you about pushing yourself to that point where you have exhausted the muscle groups ?
      Then during your rest / off day , as you eat protien it builds/ repairs muscle making it stronger ? You’ll see each week you will go farther . If you don’t then he may me over working you to the point of injury! Unless it’s a cardio only . You shouldn’t hurt yourself but you could hurt tendons which can be hard to heal and requires a lot of down time / lite therapy to heal .
      I hope this trainer has the training ?!!!!
      Hoya is a state of mind , the body has limits

  6. Avatar ld says:

    I liked this post alot. I was having a conversation with my Dr on Tuesday about this very topic. I have a tendency to put my self down alot. She was very encouraging about learning to like and accept my self as I am. My weight is the biggest challenge for me to be positive about. I am now not going to put an amount of weight I need to lose but I will lose the weight when I treat my self better. I enrolled in a gym that is a block away from my work and have committed to walk a 7 mile race in May with a friend. Baby steps, that’s what I can do right now. Keeping track of what I am eating I think will help alot also.

  7. Avatar Abby says:

    I’m not necessarily negative bout my body. I’m proud of how it looks. However I know there is always room for improvement. Just have to keep making good choices and not slack.

  8. Avatar Eikai says:

    As a Believer this makes perfect sense- walk in your identity in the Spirit as a child of light with no condemnation thru & in Christ Jesus / or walk in the ‘natural’ with the bombardment if the accuser …. Very important choices

  9. Avatar Question Authority says:

    When I’m dieting and am hungry, I think to myself, this is how all those famous actresses feel all the time. That makes me feel like I’m one of them even though I have a long way to go. It’s motivating.

  10. Avatar Question Authority says:

    When I’m dieting and am hungry, I think to myself, this is how all those famous actresses feel all the time. That makes me feel like I’m one of them even though I have a long way to go. It’s motivating.

  11. Avatar Nat says:

    As soon as you realise your thinking a negative thought, quickly switch your thought into a positive one and do it over and over again until is has gone.

  12. Avatar sparrowflock says:

    This article really helped me. I will keep it to refer to. Thank you so much!

  13. Avatar Melissa says:

    You shoul teach your class, “becoming a better you” on Coursera! It would be awesome!

  14. Avatar MJ says:

    Loved the article. I seem to bash myself harder than anyone, it seems to be easier. I need to stop that and look at the wonderful in me that others see. My weight loss will happen as I am committed now, but instead of waiting to fix my hair, nails and buying snappy things for when I feel I deserve it. I realize I deserve it NOW!

  15. Avatar Sandrarinck says:

    I stay motivated, appreciative, compassionate, empathetic, and positive by simply tellinging myself that “doing something is better than nothing. As long as I don’t quit, I cannot fail.”

    Maybe I have a stronger will to keep going even when I fall off the wagon BUT, I know in my heart that how I feel physically contributes to how my brain functions and when my brain and body feel right, my mood feels better and I remember that when I look back and remember how I use to feel and how many positive changes come from just doing something.

    I don’t have a magazine body either but I have fun with it. They say that laughing is the best medicine so on the days when I feel like all my hard work “looks” for nothing, I lift up my shirt and do the “truffle shuffle”.

  16. Avatar Tina Semmens says:

    I have struggled with this issue for as long as I can remember. I am a performer, and stage presence and attractiveness are simply part of the package performers need to deliver. I’ve been performing onstage since I was eight years old, so the pressure has always been there to “look right.” I’ve always tried hard to deliver, but I have suffered great pain in the process, rarely feeling as if I measure up to the standard set by the media, by other artists, etc.
    Just recently, I was getting ready for a show, struggling as usual to find the right outfit ( and believe me, it’s a lot harder than it used to be!), looking in the mirror, trying to decide if the all-black, stilleto heel thing was working, when my mind spoke something wonderful to me. It said, “This is good enough. You are not only going out there for people to critique your look ( even though they will). You are going out there to share a gift, to offer up your best effort. Stop worrying about what you look like and just go do it.”
    This thought process sounds simple enough, but it literally set me free in that moment. I walked away from the mirror and never thought about it again the entire night. And it felt great just to BE! On top of that, several people told me I looked fabulous.
    It is all about acceptance, the kind we generally give to others but refuse ourselves. It has taken a long time for me to see it; I need acceptance from myself more than I need it from anybody else.

  17. Avatar Chris says:

    The most important thing we can accomplish in our lifetime is self acceptance? Stupidest blog I’ve read in a long time…

  18. Avatar Happy go jolly says:

    How about staying away from negative people? I am a very happy, positive person and I think I attract sad, negative people and try to help them, but they don’t change. Is it selfish to think of me first and stop trying to make them be better?

  19. Avatar Coach Levi says:

    We can’t eliminate all stress, but having a positive attitude is a great way to eliminate the stress we create for ourselves and maybe zone out some of the other negativity. I find this more difficult than maintaining an exercise program, but it works wonders!

  20. Avatar Jenn says:

    When I feel negative about myself, I remind myself that I love my hair, the color of my eyes, or the sexiness of my shoulders and it brings a smile to my face. Also, I think about how I enlighten someone’s day just by listening to them and asking them how they are doing.

  21. Avatar Mindy says:

    I am thankful for my blessings. I love to try and count them (literally). I think of others and care deeply for them. I write my blessings down in a journal nightly. I thank God morning and night (and many times in between) for the matchless gift of his Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for this article!

  22. Avatar Kabobb says:

    I’m new to fitness pal so I was wondering when I look in the nutrition part and it shows the recommended amount of protein and fiber etc…when I come up short on my iron it shows I didn’t get to my goal for my iron intake but I can’t see where it recommends what I could eat to meet my goal. If I knew what to eat I would do it.

  23. Avatar Greg Dahlen says:

    for a while now I’ve been sharing the masai diet. The Masai are a people in Kenya who are famous for living only on products from the cow: milk; beef; and blood that they extract from their cows without killing them. The Masai also follow an important rule: “If a man eats meat and drinks milk on the same day, he is a glutton.” Therefore every day, I, who follow the diet, have to choose whether it will be a milk day or a meat day (so far I haven’t found a source for blood.) While I like meat, I prefer milk, so basically I’ve been living on fluid milk products for the last six years. Most days I drink perhaps a gallon (3.5 liters) of some kind of milk, usually skim, and that’s all I eat or drink. Sometimes I have some cream, or half and half, or some other kind of milk: 1%, 2%, or whole. I have done very well on this diet, I am six feet, one inch and this morning weighed 151 pounds. On my last physical, my PCP told me I am in the top 3% of people my age healthwise, which I attribute to the diet (my PCP is very aware of my diet.) I believe this diet would be excellent for everyone, and am particularly interested to see if it might help people with various diseases, including biggies like cancer and AIDS, and have been pushing the medical establishment to test it.

  24. […] Another way to think about this concept: I can ONLY be Carley. I can’t be someone else because everyone else is already taken. My choice is to accept and love myself for my strengths and weaknesses, and work with what I have. Only from a place of kindness and acceptance can I move forward. Compassion, not criticism, is the best motivator towards change. […]

  25. […] You have to be willing to let your mind be loose here. In the beginning, you might choose to be close-minded and think that there is nothing positive that could come out of your negative situation, but you have to be willing to let go of your mental resistance. […]

  26. […] a previous post, I spoke about how we have an average of 82,000 thoughts a day. That is a lot of thoughts, so how […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.