I recently took part in the Elite Body Seminar, where I was interviewed by Jim Katsoulis, a hypnotherapist and fitness coach who, rather than just training clients in the gym physically, he specializes in using psychological techniques to change behavior, achieve goals and build excitement, passion and confidence in the process. Because of our mutual appreciation for the focus on the mind and motivation aspect of health and fitness, I was pleased to participate. My readers as well as many journalists have often told me they are interested in how I’ve stayed motivated to train consistently for 30 years straight without ever taking more than 1 week of unplanned time off. Below is my answer when Jim asked me how I personally motivate myself. This seemed like an ideal way to kick off the New Year since so many people start off gung-ho in January and often lose steam in a matter of weeks.
How I’ve Stayed Motivated To Keep Training For 30 Years
Jim: this is the part I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been so excited to get on the line and talk to Tom Venuto about these things. Again, we’re both NLP practitioners. For those who don’t know, NLP is really a science of modeling in the sense that the two co-founders searched for people who were getting amazing results and so they deconstructed how these exemplars were so successful so they could get the same results and teach other people to get the same kind of results.
One thing that sets you apart from other writers, Tom is that you live everything you wrote in your Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle book. You’re like an encyclopedia of information, but you also live this lifestyle and look the part and it’s even more impressive knowing that you practice all the things you talk about.
But one thing I’m curious about is how do you keep yourself motivated? I know it’s automatic for you now, but what things motivated you in the beginning and what motivates you now at this point to keep going and keep maintaining this eating regimen and this workout routine you’ve been on for so many years?
Tom: I’ve found that different people are motivated by different things. There’s motivation towards or away from something, there’s motivation to get a certain good feeling, to avoid something bad happening, and there’s motivation for things like recognition and family needs. I guess the answer depends on whether you want to know how I would help someone else find their motivators or how do I keep Tom Venuto motivated?
Jim: Yeah, for starters, how do you keep Tom Venuto motivated? I’m kind of curious.
Tom: Well, I’m a fanatical goal setter for one thing. I never lose focus on my goals. I believe that what you focus on constantly is going to affect your level of motivation. I really believe that goal setting alone is miraculous if you make it a habit and a discipline and have fun with it too.
Jim: Have you always been that way? Has it always been a thing throughout your life?
Tom: I have since I was in college. I got turned onto personal development when I was pretty young. Somehow, the first success book I ever read was Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I don’t know how I had the good fortune of having that one fall into my lap when I was 18 years old, but after I read it, I was hooked. That book led me into personal development as a hobby and a passion.
I got very quickly into Anthony Robbins. That was late 1980s when I started reading Tony’s stuff – Unlimited Power and Unleash the Power Within. I also got turned onto Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Steven Covey, and Jim Rohn. These guys each had their own style, very different from Robbins, but the one thing they ALL taught in common was goal setting.
Tracy said “goals are the master skill of success.” Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Robbins said the first step to success is “know your outcome.” Ziglar said not having goals is like shooting at a target with a blindfold on. And Jim Rohn who’s one of the most respected motivational teachers and speakers of all time, said that out of all things he learned since his early days, goal setting had the most profound effect on his life.
There’s more to getting and staying motivated than goals, but I like to start there because having goals gives you something to focus on. It gives you a direction.
I think one of the things that made goal setting so effective for me is that I became a “serial goal setter.” I’m always asking “What’s next?” I always walk around with my goals written on a card in my pocket. I always have a huge master list of goals and I’m always re-writing them and adding to them.
People ask, “How many goals should I set?” Well, as many as you can. Mark Victor Hansen from Chicken Soup for the Soul says that he has 6,000 goals on his master goal list. Knowing his work, I believe him. You can’t remember thousands of goals off the top of your head, but if you write them down, you have them on paper, and they also go into your subconscious mind. They’re in there. You just have to choose a handful of them to prioritize and focus on so your mind is always thinking about and working on the most important ones.
I’m always focused on goals. I look at goals as a target and a guidance system. If you start heading in the wrong direction, that’s okay. As long as you have a target, you can correct course, right?
But you also need propulsion and I don’t know that setting goals alone will provide enough propulsion for everybody. I find propulsion comes from reasons why and from values.
What I mean by values is, what’s important to you about getting that goal? If somebody asks me what’s most important to me about training and competing in body building, I have lots of answers and reasons why I do it, but what ultimately comes to mind is, “Because I have potential that I haven’t fulfilled yet.”
A core value of mine is being everything I can be; fulfilling potential. The worst thing that could happen to me is if I had a strong desire or major goal I truly wanted to achieve, like I wanted to win a certain competition – and I never even attempted it and looked back later in regret. Just the thought of wasted potential kills me and it motivates me like there was a rocket strapped to my back.
You could say this is negative motivation because it’s pain that’s driving me to get motivated, but that works for me. Actually, I think what creates the burning desire is the gap between what you are now and what you’re capable of, and your conscious awareness of that. It’s that feeling of, “I’m capable of so much more and I haven’t achieved it yet,” I guess you could say it’s awareness of your unfulfilled potential.
If you ask me “What else is important to you?” I would definitely say being a role model. This may be a unique value to me because I’ve been a trainer and coach. Other peoples core values and reasons why are all different. Some values are pretty much universal, but looking the part and being a role model is something that really motivates me. Actually I should say it’s the reverse:
I might visualize myself not looking the part; I might see myself overweight with 30% body fat – and I know that sounds backwards – I’m supposed to be visualizing what I want – but bear with me for a second and I’ll explain.
If I see a mental picture of myself walking down the beach and bumping into a group of my customers or peers and I have 30% body fat and they all look at me like “Whoa, that’s Tom Venuto? What the *$#! happened to him? He’s in terrible shape!” or even worse, if they said, “what a hypocrite!” I only need to think about that picture for a couple of milliseconds and there’s no bloody way – I’m in the gym training my butt off. Being congruent – where what I do and what I say are a match – is an important value to me.
I’ll give you one more. If you ask me what else is important to me, one of my highest values is personal growth. I believe that if you’re not growing and improving, you’re dying. I don’t think we’re just here to eat, breathe and go to the bathroom. Animals do that. But we’re not animals. That’s not living. That’s existing. I believe we are here to learn, create and grow.
If somebody asks me, “Okay, but what makes you want to train and be a body builder? What does all that stuff have to do with staying on a strict diet or tearing it up in the gym?” Well I didn’t give you a surface level value or a goal like, “I want to win a competition”, I gave you my highest life values, which I’ve given a lot of deep thought.
It’s when you ask why are those things important to you, and keep asking until you come up with a lot of reasons including the core reason, that when you uncover what really drives you to keep cranking away at this every day.
What I find through coaching sessions is that for a large majority of people who have families, that’s one of the core values and core motivators. Getting healthy and fit for their family, to see their kids grow up, graduate and get married, to be there to support them because they don’t want anyone else raising their kids, that’s the real reason why.
So, you have to find your core values and attach them to your goals and keep in mind everyone’s values are different.
Then you have to take a close look at getting your values in the right order of priority. Not just what’s important to you, but whats MOST important to you? Which value is on TOP?
We all have lots of values. Everyone values their health, who doesn’t? But you also might value happy hour. You might value being fit, but you also value watching TV. You might value proper nutrition but you also value eating doughnuts. What order are those values in? You have to consider your order of priorities.
When health is above drinking beer and eating pizza, your decisions will be a lot different than when the order is reversed won’t they? Unfortunately it often takes a near death experience like a heart attack, emotions like disgust or a rock bottom emotional experience like humiliation, for some people to re-arrange their priorities in life.
Like I said, everyone is different, but what I think people could take from my approach is that you always start by setting goals but don’t stop there. Write down the reasons they are important to you and then check the order of your priorities. That’s a good formula: Goals – Values – Priorities (G.V.P)
If you have goals and then you connect them to your values by asking “WHY do I want to achieve this goal?, WHAT’S important to me about it? And HOW important is it to me” then I don’t think you’ll ever, ever have a problem with motivation.
About Jim Katsoulis
Jim is a Master Hypnotist, Weight Loss Expert and contributor to the “Mind and Motivation” department at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle. He has conducted over 3,000 weight loss sessions and has helped thousands of people create the body and lives they want through his course, Program Yourself Thin. Using cutting edge mental change techniques and a common sense approach, he has personally dropped 50 lbs and kept it off without a day of dieting. Jim is dedicated to helping others recapture the excitement, passion, and confidence that comes with living in the body of your dreams.www.ProgramYourselfThin.com
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, fat loss coach, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. Tom’s articles are featured on hundreds of websites worldwide and he has been featured in Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, IRONMAN magazine, Muscular Development as well as in Oprah magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He has appeared on dozens of podcasts and radio shows including Martha Stewart healthy living (Sirius XM), ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle