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Identifying motivations and setting goals to match

88 Days, 248+ kilometers, and 1 ger later I have a second ultra marathon under my belt. Actually, I fell off the wagon somewhere between 88 and 60 days before the race, so all of those kilometers were clocked within the last 8 weeks. While I initially hoped to compete in the 100km category, I didn’t log enough distance during my training to have confidence that I could walk away injury-free. As a result, I stuck with the 60km category, where I managed to place 3rd overall among women and 1st in my age group with a time of 7:36. I have to admit, I’m proud of my results and the fact that I was able to “maintain” my fitness level despite returning to a full time job in January. If you’re curious what falling off the wagon looks like, Nike+ does a great job of visualizing that information:


The first thing people ask you when you complete a event like this is, “what’s next?” The pressure to up the stakes and seek out an even tougher endurance race is strong. While there are some really interesting adventure and foot races out there by organizations like Adventure Marathons, Global Limits, and Racing the Planet, I don’t think that signing up for another race alone is going to provide enough motivation to sustain my active, healthy lifestyle. It quickly became clear as race day drew closer that it was not the main motivational driver. Feeling comfortable in my own skin and being the best version of myself is the ultimate goal, but much harder to assess and quantify.

“Many people incorrectly view motivation as a personal trait—that is, some people have it, and others don’t. But motivation is defined as the force that causes an individual to behave in a specific way” (via

There are many models and theories for motivation, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs among the most well known. In my opinion, he correctly separates esteem needs into “lower” and “higher” versions. The lower version is concerned with fulfilling these needs through acceptance and recognition from others in the form of awards, fame, or these days Facebook likes. The higher version is satisfied only by acceptance and respect that comes from within. Differentiating between the two is often challenging and setting goals that target increasing self-acceptance and self-respect even more difficult.

Two of the most popular fitness programs in Hong Kong are called BikiniFit and Look Good Naked, whose names speak to a particular set of motivations and goals. While I am an active BikiniFit member, I often feel obligated to explain that the program is about much more than just looking good in a bikini. Building healthy habits, improving body composition and increasing strength all contribute to self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love. The ripple effect created by these feelings in careers and interpersonal relationships is priceless. Unfortunately, most fitness goals don’t capture this multi-faceted, often emotionally-charged state.

Over the next six months I’m going to try out a different set of goals and see how successful they are at helping me sustain motivation and achieve my ultimate desire of being the best version of myself. I’ve brainstormed a list of experiences and situations that can serve as external deadlines and hopefully more directly assess my level of comfort in my own skin. The list includes modeling for a life drawing class, making a video of myself, posing for a photographer and visiting a nude beach. Let’s see if these experiences keep me engaged!



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