HAWTHORNE: Social motivation

HAWTHORNE: Social motivation

Personal trainer Sean Hawthorne asks, if we know what to do, then why don’t we do it?

In the last article on motivation, I talked about personal motivation, journaling, acknowledging small victories, and creative goal setting. In this article, we’ll explore social motivation, the power of our peer group, and some strategies for change.

What’s The Best…?

As a health and fitness professional, I often hear the question, What’s the best diet? And my immediate response has always been, “the one that you don’t know you’re on.” What I mean by that is when the actions we take intrinsically support the results we seek, achieving the goal is much easier. For example, let’s say my goal is to be muscular and fit. I enjoy rigorous exercise, and I hate fast food, preferring to snack on carrot sticks and sip soda water, well…I’m probably already muscular and fit!

In introducing the idea of behaviour change as the missing piece of the puzzle, and in creating https://bravoformula.com/free90days , my goal is to help make change a little easier by sharing knowledge, tools and techniques that develop habits and automate the actions necessary for success.

Motivation and Habit

So far, we’ve looked at motivation as personal, social and structural or environmental. These are the forces that move us – the drives to take action – and they can be intrinsic, meaning from within, or extrinsic, from outside. If I like and want to do the things that support my goal, if the drive comes from inside, that’s intrinsic. With weight loss and physical changes, the real “trick” to succeeding is transforming our extrinsic motivations into intrinsic ones.

Let’s look at this a little closer. After a routine medical check, there’s a message from the doctor about negative test results and some long-term potential risk factors, and while not scary, it’s certainly unnerving. This is an extrinsic or external motivator, and it may be enough to start some change, a walking program, or even dietary changes, but is it enough motivation to make this change a habit? It’s only when those changes become intrinsic… when you want to walk or enjoy added fruits and vegetables, that the results become much more permanent.

Changes to our health or fitness are relatively quick; things like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and cardiovascular performance, react faster to intervention than weight-loss, or body composition. Permanent, visible changes to our waistline require more time. They take time, effort and consistency, which is why the newfound actions that support the goal need to become automatic, habits that become a part of what we do every day.

Social Motivation

Now, social motivation is the power of our peer network; it’s peer pressure. Arguably the most powerful influencer in our lives. By its very nature, it is extrinsic, coming from outside of us. With health and fitness and establishing new habits that support the goal to feel or look different, it’s essential to recognize and shape the forces that influence our behaviour. With social motivation and social ability, the objective is to either resist or recruit the power of our peers and to do it strategically. I can’t stress this point enough; social motivation and ability need to be done with some real analysis and thought. In my opinion, weight loss programs that advocate changing your social circle to surround yourself with new like-minded confederates are saying, “dump your friends to lose weight and get the body of your dreams”. Situations and relationships are different, and maybe some do need changing, but suggesting that one needs to abandon old friends and find new ones to reach their goals is not what I recommend. Cleaning out the cupboard and throwing away the double chocolate Oreos is not the same as ghosting your BFF.

Real World Application – The Lunch Lady

I have no idea what our new social lives will look like, but let’s look at an example of what I mean when I say strategy – based on the pre-COVID 19 era. Over the years, I’ve had several clients whose jobs required them to meet with their customers, typically over lunch or dinner in a restaurant setting, and they’ve struggled with managing any changes to their diet. One of my clients regularly used the restaurant lunch meeting as both a marketing and an operational tool, using that time to the best of her advantage. She’s a very savvy woman, but she struggled with practical strategies to deal with the high-calorie content in restaurant foods, relying mainly on the “starve now, eat later” plan, forgoing breakfast and any food until her lunch date. Choosing to skip now and eat later is a bad idea because of how physiology and psychology interact. In general, hunger is the reason we eat, and excessive hunger often leads to overconsumption. Now, I may have plans for a salad at lunch, but if I haven’t eaten since the previous day, and I’m hungry, the low-cal meal I was planning on ordering becomes something I’ll do next time, and for now, it’s pasta and breadsticks.

It’s not necessarily a lack of stoicism or grit that causes me to change the plan (although sometimes you do need a little toughness); it’s our physiology, the need for calories and homeostasis, affecting our psychology and decision making. So analyzing the situation, I asked two questions:

  1. Who pays for lunch?
  2. Who decides where lunch will be?

She paid for lunch, and she often named the locale (rarely deviating from one establishment), which put her in the driver’s seat. We talked about this, and as a valued customer, she decided that she would contact the restaurant and request a couple of healthier options tailored to her goals. We were trying to create a new, robust habit that integrated with her existing work style, and so I suggested the following steps:

  1. When booking a lunch meeting with a client in her calendar, she would write her intended order along with any other details of the appointment.
  2. When making the reservation with the restaurant, she would ensure her intended option was available.

One of the concerns was the optics of a special order; my client didn’t want to draw attention to her diet, so she was able to remove that issue by contacting the restaurant and arranging for some alternative meals tailored to her. Writing the intended order in her calendar and then requesting it when making the reservation further strengthened her motivation to stick to her plan. Now all she had to do was to eat breakfast and reduce the physiological need for calories, and she had a strategy that she could stick with long enough to see some motivating results!

In every situation, there are options. The “best” choice becomes the worst if it’s so inflexible, it gets tossed in the trash and while there might be the “best” choice, a choice tossed in the trash. Instead, we should aim for the “better choice” – an alternative that might not fit perfectly with the plan to lose weight or change your fitness, but it fits well enough to get results, and even better, allows for comfortable repetition and the time necessary to become invisible and automatic.


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Rehabilitation is icky. (That’s not a technical term 😉) It’s hard on your psyche, I went from casually curling 70 pound dumbbells to failing with 5 lbs. It hurts, holding that little green band in a supinated position is extremely uncomfortable. And it’s slow (might be my maturity level), it’s taken several months to be able to externally rotate that little green band as poorly as it looks. . . But, what else am I going to do? Quit lifting weights? Never throw a football to my son again? Switch to button up shirts? No. As an existentialist I’m all about quality and not quantity. It’s worth the effort. Netflix and chill is not a sport. If you’re injured or have chronic pain, don’t settle, find some professional advice and get to work. . . If you read this far and you’re curious, I crashed on my dirt bike and tore my shoulder to shit. External rotation and humeral stability are severely compromised. I started with strength and stability (static) and have progressed to eccentric with very limited ranges of motion through the concentric contraction, it’s been 13 months since the accident. . . #kelowna #onelife #change #weightloss #fitness #change #exercise #practice #rehabilitation #coach #coaching #diet #nutrition #motivation #influence #performance #success #awesome #captainawesome #mentalfitness #deliberatepractice #kaizen #happy

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Sean Hawthorne is the owner and operator of OneLife Health and Wellness, Kelowna’s first and longest running private, personal training facility. While working in Dubai, UAE as a Contracts and Project Manager, Sean decided to leave his successful career in Civil Engineering Technology and pursue his passion for health, fitness and helping others achieve their goals. He returned to Canada in 2001, taking formal education in Exercise Science and starting his career in the field of health and fitness. Working in collaboration with their clients, Sean and his team of health and fitness professionals strive to continually improve their skills and to help everyone reach their goals.

Contact Sean:




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