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Get Awesome Results (Part 2): Coaching the “M” Word

(Even watching Rocky won’t keep you motivated for long)

The phony idea of pumping people up, intense yelling, or even a “motivational movie” will most likely NOT cure unmotivated people to create lasting change. This is an inadequate way of thinking about this misunderstood and poorly implemented word. My goal for this post it to teach you more about the “m” word, how to maximize it’s potency and duration, and solutions to make motivation “work”. With that said, let’s get right to it.

Motivation is literally the desire to do things. I believe every coach who understands the “m word” does not try to motivate others per say. People who want to accomplish something and have lasting must find a way to motivate themselves. Now saying this, (if you’re a coach) it’s your job to help guide them to do so. Below I list some pointers on how to go about doing this. Here we go…

1. First, you must have control and be able to motivate yourself before trying to help someone else do so.

Practice what you preach. Seriously. If you hate what you do and you’re trying to help someone at it, they will hate it too. If you’re bad at what you do or do, or you do not like what you’re doing, people can see right through you and they will in turn be bad at it too. Don’t you love the people who are awesome at what they do and or are excited for life? Aren’t you inspired by them? Passion is contagious.

If you are one of those people who already have a passion and are good at what you do, learn what is that’s motivating you so you can inspire and help others. Just remember, when it comes to dealing with people everyone is different. You will read about this more specifically below.

2. Have other “testimonials” or highly successful people being coached by you lead by example and inspire others.

I think every coach needs individuals that lead by example and show others what is actually possible. Whenever you can show others demonstrating awesome levels of success it is fantastic, a reflection of what you do. Know who these “gems” of clients are, tell them, and keep developing and helping these people. They will become your “secret powers” that will lead and help others achieve ridiculous results and better progress. Inspiration and it’s power is a topic that will be brought up in part three of this series “How Successful People Think”.

3. To help a person to motivate themselves, you must appeal to THEIR values.

One of the major things you must figure out when trying to motivate another person is to recognize their values and what’s important to each and every one of them. Ask questions like…

  1. What matters most to you today?
  2. For what reasons do you want to achieve whatever it may be?
  3. What value do you place on a achieving these goals?

Whether the goal is the same as yours or the opposite it does not matter. For example in the training sense, some people value hard work, where others are just happy to participate. Some value being with their family, others don’t. A simple often overlooked way to do this is to actually ask and LOOK AT and evaluate people’s lifestyles, starting points, goals etc. so you can help them determine what they can realistically achieve and how long it will take. It goes a long way.

4. We do things because we want to fulfill our needs, we enjoy them, and because they matter.

When you or others are not enjoying the process, feeling worthy or successful, I can almost guarantee you have lost motivation. Gain a clear understanding of what your client wants to get out of fitness and life. Understanding people as individuals will help you understand how reaching their goals will CAUSE them to reach their fitness and life goals. Find out why others are unmotivated. Do they even want to achieve something. Have they become bored? What can you do to bring them back to life and help them set an awesome goal they want to achieve. Some questions to ask could be…

  • Do you feel a sense of meaning?
  • Did you get caught up in the sense that you’re doing this because you think you have to?
  • Why are your clients signing up?
  • What do they want to achieve?
  • Who is important in their life?
  • Who do they want to please or make proud if anyone?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What is their lifestyle like inside and outside of work?
  • How many food pushers, anti-fitness people or “threats” do they receive each day?

Continuing on this idea, if you are looking to be successful at what you do, for the most part intrinsic drive (doing things because they matter, you want to, you enjoy them) will out-weight extrinsic drive (rewards, money etc.) any day of the week. This is the secret to high performance. According to Dan Pink, the science confirms this and proves it over and over again. If you want to know more about this guy look him up. His new ideas on business and how management is not needed are pretty incredible as well.

5. Catch people when they do something good.  But before you do so, there’s another “catch” you must know as well.

Complimenting people all the time on things they always do good get’s old. Instead, notice and praise people for great performance and on things they don’t normally seem to “get”.  Then they will see you really understand and care about them.

For example, if your training a group and Sally always has great deadlift technique or always seems to eat a good breakfast, don’t repeat back, “terrific form!” or “nice discipline with breakfast this morning” every time. She will know in her head,” I always do this, whats the big deal?”

On the other hand if John has terrible deadlift form, and you see him make an improvement, this is the time to give him a pat on the back, show some praise and shout out “excellent lift!” or something along those lines according to your personality. Acknowledge what he achieved and he will know you are not missing anything. Or in other words you pay attention to him ALL the time and notice what hes doing. Show the people you genuinely care.

6. Have a  proven system in place, and set realistic goals WITH your clients not FOR them. Along with this, teach others to gain control of their individual success.

Anyone can set a goal for someone but if they don’t want it in the first place you might as well flush it down the toilet. To create a successful environment where people can motivate themselves, help others develop goals that will lead to results they want. I believe successful people and coaches know what triggers each person to get strive for and reach success.

Obviously setting SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, Evaluate, Re-evaluate, Satisfactory) guidelines/goals are great. By doing this “the right way” at the least you will…

  • Be honest with yourself and lay out a good starting point. You must have total honesty about where you are at.
  • Have better time management
  • Have more self confidence now that you believe goals are possible
  • Know what expect from yourself
  • Understand what value you place on achieving a goal.

I believe that when people achieve success, it keeps them “going”. It also boosts self confidence, and gives them hope there is light at the end of the tunnel. Having a coach that can see the future is a plus, but if you don’t have one that can or even one at all, just understand that if you’re not making progress something has to either be changed, modified, or progressed.

7. MEASURE, show and explain to people what is possible once you have the above figured out. Set people up for success!

I understand everyone is very different but if you explain  “on average” what happens, at least you have a starting point and something to work with. For example, with my systems if I have someone going for fat loss this is what I show them. Feel free to make something like this on your own but do not show anything if you cannot 100% guarantee it!

Average weight loss in the first week (primarily water and glycogen) Average weight loss each week after
More than 200 lbs 2 to 7 pounds 1 to 3 pounds
Less than 200 lbs 2 to 5 pounds 1 to 2 pounds

With measuring let’s stick with this idea of fat loss. If you never follow through and measure your progress, you will never know if you’re getting better or worse. Not dragging on just measure more often. No not everyday but more often. Measure at the same time and day every week. On the other hand, if you’re going for strength log your numbers. Etc. etc. etc.

What not to do when setting goals…

Have you ever had a coach or someone that compared you to the someone else with different genetics, tendon insertions, genders, ability levels? If they are comparing you to the best player you don’t have a shot of being like for a while or at all how do you think that will make you feel? If so, when you fail you and your coach will both be disappointed and in shock even though you did your best with the tools you had. Sometimes its impossible to reach certain desired outcomes and this failure crushes people, especially children.

That said I believe 99% of people limit themselves way too much, and that everyone can reach goals much higher than they ever thought possible. For example if you have always carried a bit to much body fat and or think, “I’ll never look like I used too”, you are already limiting yourself and it’s not true. I guarantee you can get A LOT leaner than you think with the proper effort, consistency and intensity.

8. Like I said in part one of this series, when setting goals find the optimal activation point.

  • For some people, if you set a goal is too hard: They will get anxiety, feel pressured, and get overwhelmed when trying to accomplish it.
  • Whereas for others if the goal is too hard: They will feed off of the challenge and get 10000 times better.

It’s your job to understand yourself and or your clients. Don’t let people fail all the time who get worse by doing so. Don’t let people always achieve success easily when failing will make them bust there tail even more. Set goals near the upper limits of your own or other people’s individual abilities but not too hard to achieve. If the goal is too hard, you/they will fail, if it’s too easy you/they will become bored. It’s a very simple process often overlooked.

9. Stop dabbling, stop “shoulding” and stop trying.  Passion, inspiration, commitment and consistency are what matters.

(Counting how long you last here will definitely help you fail)

For example, if you’re counting the days you have stuck to a new nutrition or training system that’s not going to stick forever. It’s really not that cool how long you lasted if it doesn’t make you better or help you grow to produce the results you are really after. You’re just seeing how many days you can last. Patience has a lot to do with this. We all expect things to fast. When what we want doesn’t happen “right now” we jump to the next thing.

Everyone screws up, gets stressed, depressed, or in general just has mess ups. The real thing to think about is how did you get past this crisis? Consistency. passion and setting yourself up to win is the key. If you’re not inspired, what do you have? With passion and inspiration you feel alive, excited and in control of your life. A ridiculous combination for consistency, progress, happiness and success.

Touching on the trying debate: “I am trying to do this because”…”I should do this because”…PLEASE STOP RIGHT THERE! Do not pass go, and do not collect $200.00. Trying or shoulding doesn’t work. Why MUST you have this? In short list and lay out strong reasons for achieving your goals instead.

Now to conclude this abruptly and out of nowhere…Hopefully after reading this post you will now go watch 3 motivational movies, and have someone yell in your face to do something. Kidding! But on a serious note if you read over an implement the ideas above on how to create a successful environment to motivate yourself and or others, you will find a better road map to achieve some awesomeness!


Successful Coaching. Fourth ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2012. Print.

About Justin Rivelli

Justin Rivelli has been training clients online and in-person at his private gym in Berkshire County, Massachusetts for over 15 years. He specializes in helping 35 to 65 year old adults improve their body composition with well-rounded fitness plans that suit their needs, wants, and lifestyle. You can find out more about him at


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