Your spiritual framework: our core motivators

Interestingly enough, a simple Google search of the definition of the word “motivation” results in two definitions:

  1. the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way
  2. the general desire or willingness of someone to do something

Both of these definitions involve something deeper than just willpower. Rather, it forces us to dive into our reasons for doing something. These reasons stem from our deepest desires, morals, values, and priorities. Jeff Olsen, author of the book The Slight Edge calls this our philosophy, whereas Ray Dalio, author of the book Principles calls it our principles. We call this our spirituality.

How our “philosophy” determines our outcomes in life. From the book The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olsen.
How our thinking and principles can automate our decisions. From the book Principles, by Ray Dalio.

Our foundation for not only our health & our wellness, but also living a full & meaningful life, starts with our spirituality. Spirituality, according to Mbody Human Performance, doesn’t always mean religion & belief (although they can play crucial roles). Rather, it refers to our deepest morals, values, and priorities, which often stem strongly from our religious beliefs about the meaning of our lives (but not always).

In order to create this spiritual foundation, we must clearly define what our personal morals, values, & priorities are. This will help us create a “spiritual framework,” which will give us some insight into what we are & aren’t willing to do, and where we will be spending our best time and energy.

Our morals, values, and priorities, ultimately determine our goals & motivations, which drive our actions and behaviors.

Our morals, values, and priorities, ultimately determine our goals & motivations, which drive our actions and behaviors.

Actions and behaviors we perform that are out of line with these morals and values create what is called “moral anxiety.”

Actions and behaviors we perform that are out of line with these morals and values create what is called “moral anxiety.”

Getting clear on our morals, values, and priorities in life…

  1. help us realize what we are and aren’t willing to do. We can then stop wasting energy trying to change something we don’t really want to change.
  2. drive us to align our thoughts and actions with those morals, values, and priorities. We can use our energy to change the things we really want to change.

A lot of us think we want 6-pack abs, strict diet plans, & advanced goals, only to find out that topics such as exercise and physical function are not super high up on our priority list.

If our morals, values, and priorities drive our motivations, thoughts, and
actions, then the question is: how can we get clear on them?

One simple (but not so easy) way to achieve this is to reflect on and ask
yourself the following questions, taken from James Fowler’s book Stages of

  • What are you spending and being spent for? What commands and receives your best time, your best energy?
  • What causes, dreams, goals, or institutions are you pouring out your life for?
  • As you live your life, what power or powers do you fear or dread? What power or powers do you rely on and trust?
  • To what or whom are you committed in life? In death?
  • With whom or what group do you share your most sacred and private hopes for your life and for the lives of those you love?
  • What are those most sacred hopes, those most compelling goals and purposes in your life?

Woah. Those are some pretty deep questions that only you can answer.

Another exercise you can do to visualize which aspects of your life are most important to you and gain some clarity on your own morals, values, and priorities is the “Big Rocks” exercise, which you can download here.

The higher up something is on our list of morals, values, & priorities, the more time, energy, and effort we are willing to spend on it.

Trying to willpower ourselves into doing something that we truly aren’t as motivated to do as we may think we are will either be short-lived or we will fail to do it, creating frustration & degrading our sense of self-efficacy.

Does this mean that if we don’t feel motivated to do something that we shouldn’t do it? No.

We often times don’t feel motivated to do something, even though we want it. Think of an individual with a weight loss goal trying to get into the routine of exercise: he/she may truly value the benefits of weight loss, but consistently going to the gym and working out sometimes isn’t all that attractive. After all, think of all the other things they could be doing instead.

As human beings, we often crave instant gratification – feeling good now, often times forgetting the long-term consequences of our actions. It’s completely normal.

So how can we overcome this?

Click here to read more about motivation, including what to do when we don’t “feel” like doing something, but still want to do it.

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