Motivation 101 – The Struggle Is Real

Though I have a passion for all things exercise, sport and fitness related, at heart I am a massive neek 1. Gaming is my go-to hobby if I have some downtime and I will often gravitate to the PC for a quick RTS (real-time strategy 2) or FPS (first-person shooter 3) online match.

I have always enjoyed how gaming allows a player to easily visualise and measure progress. Over time you may become faster, be able to jump further or do more damage. You get access to better gear and different abilities. This keeps players interested and moving forward, wondering at the prospect of what is just around the corner. Seeing other gamers with different skills and items encourages you to progress and improve your character. You need only to look at the massive fanbase for games like World of Warcraft to see that the drive to improve can be hugely addictive.

If I wasn’t so into sport, this would be me. Hands-down.

This mind-set could apply to daily life, but it rarely does. Why is this? Most people have an underlying desire to make improvements. The key difference between gaming and life is that progress IRL 4 isn’t immediately tangible – because it is a lot lot slower. You are not told in express terms that you have gone from level 5 to level 6 this year. You can’t always tell if you are even improving – whereas in a video game you can see that you are halfway to your goal.

Yet if you work out every day you will become faster and stronger (+5 to strength, +5 to endurance).
If you study two hours each week youwill become more knowledgeable (+5 to intelligence, +5 to mana). You may not be able to see a character attribute screen with all your abilities listed, but it does exist behind the scenes. We really do have Westworld attribute matrix’s hidden away (I think when I was built they forgot to include the ‘social interactions’ slider. It’s stuck at zero.)

I was never imbued with any social interaction attributes. Put me in a scenario where someone discusses house renovations and I crash and need to reboot.

With this in mind, I have two tips for maintaining motivation.

Step 1: Measure everything

Note down your accomplishments, and make it detailed. It is easier to see how far you have come when you can look back and see where you started.

Jogging is the perfect example. If you take up jogging and consistently train you will make progress, but it is hard to keep track. You don’t really remember how you were at the start (I never struggled to run 5k surely?).You will be able to run for longer, faster and further, but forget over time what you were (or were not) capable of.

There are numerous ways to capture the data – my preferred method is a Google Sheet 5, as the info is instantly saved to the cloud and accessible worldwide. Plenty of phone apps will capture all the relevant data, and if nothing else then pencil and paper will work just fine (but have a tendency to get lost).

 Date Distance Time Notes
Monday 5k 35 mins 56 secs Feet sore, tired at the end and maxed out effort.
Tuesday Rest day. Feet and calves sore from yesterday, hard to walk
Wednesday 5k 35 mins 45 secs Still somewhat sore from Mon. Looked up some stretching exercises on youtube and did stretches post-jog.
Thursday Rest day. Feet and calves sore but ok, better than Tues.
Friday 5k 35 mins 40 secs Legs feeling ok, wasn’t as tedious as before and felt like could have continued.

End of week result? Endurance +1!

Here are a couple of example notes from my workouts a few years back when I was in the early stages of triathlon training.

Date Swim (km) Bike (km) Run (km) Notes
Sunday 9.5 Morning jog. 55 mins. Easy pace but calves tight by end.

Edit: Soreness gone by Tuesday.

Wednesday 30 5 Cycle: Indoor @ gym. Resistance: 5, Time: 1 Hr. Very tired at end.

Run: Indoor @ gym. 12km/h. First BRICK workout.

Friday 1 20 Indoor warm up cycle (no saved data).

Swim without goggles in eve. Error do not do again. Time ~ 7 mins per 250m.

It takes time to build up all the relevant data, but once you have it is fascinating. I can see at the beginning many years ago when I took up cycling I really struggled to go for longer than an hour on the indoor trainer. Now I know I can do 5 times that (I don’t, obviously, can you imagine the boredom). Measurable progress. You will figure out over time what metrics you want to capture; I have progressed from distance only initially to distance, time, speed, heartrate, power (watts on a bike).

Step 2: Proper setting of goals

Whilst it is motivating in and of itself to see how far you’ve come, just tracking everything won’t work. With no end in sight there isn’t any reason to progress. The easiest way to maintain motivation is to set SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) to keep you pushing forward.

Take a goal many of us have – getting fit. If this is your goal you are almost bound to fail, how do you measure being fitter? However, the exact same overall aim (I want to be in better shape) could be adjusted to ‘I want to have participated in an official half marathon by December this year, and finish in under 2.5 hours’.

–       Specific?
✓ Yes. Imagine you have 10 seconds to explain the goal to someone that doesn’t know you, with a clear and specific goal this shouldn’t be a problem.

–       Measurable?
✓ Yes, binary – either you will or you won’t have completed the goal.

–       Achievable?
✓ Yes. Even if you can’t run 5k now, in a year you can run the 21.1k distance. If you are committed it’s doable a quarter of that time.

–       Relevant?
✓ Yes if you are setting it yourself (as opposed to someone else setting a goal for you that isn’t really something you want to achieve).

–       Time-bound?
✓ Clear cut-off point.

If you meet the SMART criteria you will have undoubtedly completed your general objective (being fitter in the example above).


1. Measure everything, and keep good notes in cloud.
2. Set SMART goals.

Have any top tips for staying motivated? Let me know in the comments below.

I will leave you with my favourite gaming video of all time, the infamous LLLLeeroy JJJJenkins!!

*Sigh* Goddammit Leeroy.

  2. Age of Empires II, you might be almost 20 years old but you are still the king of games.
  3. CoD would be my go-to. I am fan of battlefield but CoD is easier to jump in and out of at a whim. If you play battlefield you need to invest a minimum half hour per match and woe betide you if your team is weak. By contrast CoD allows a player to be a one-man army terrorising the enemy with all manner of funky powerups. Dogs, incoming. Plus CoD has zombie mode. Kino der Toten..the memories.
  4. IRL = In Real Life. For those people who actually live in the real world and can face their problems head on. Ugh, adulting.
  5. I use Google Sheets for everything admin related. Even lists of items I’ve taken on holiday. Anything cloud based is the best IMO, just because you can access anywhere. Anywhere with an internet connection. So, not really anywhere, but you get my point.

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