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A Few Thoughts on Motivation and ‘Personal Development Coaches’…

Motivation is a funny thing. I’ve written this post having been inspired by something I have watched grow over the last couple of years. Something I really don’t like and feel preys on people looking for a solution to a potentially very complex problem. It’ll get a little ranty, but read on…

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back…

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and I noticed something. A guy I used to go to school with was pouring his heart out, talking about his personal battles with his weight, with his self-esteem, with issues stemming from childhood etc.

At first I thought that was a bit odd (remember I am a British male, meaning public displays of emotion are about as comfortable to me as using sandpaper as a shower sponge), but then a pattern started to emerge.

Having done this for 4 consecutive days, he started to invite questions as to why he was sharing this info at the end of each status update.

Reading between the lines, I think he’s working with some sort of ‘Life Coach’ or ‘Personal Development Guru’. Perhaps he’s even offering a self-help service himself. It’s a tactic I’ve seen before from these kind of service providers a few times over.

These Motivational Coaches Are Abundant Now…

Maybe it’s because I work in the health/fitness/wellness world and these people operate in this space, but there seems to have been a huge increase in the amount of people offering some kind of personal development service. Every time I’m on Facebook I’ll see a new one. You can spot them yourself – usually their shtick is along these lines…

A few years ago I was working 250 hours per week. I was making a lot of money, but I felt empty. Something was missing. I was chasing an image of success, but my life was falling apart around me. My wife had her bags packed, she was about to leave. I was at my wits end. I was tired, I was neglecting everything that was important.

Now though, after I embarked on my journey of self-discovery, I’m a multi gazillionaire, my wife is back and she can’t keep her hands off me. I live in a mansion with 83 staff. I work for 10 minutes per month and I own an island. The hardest decision I have every day is which supercar to drive. If anything, my life is too good.

You can enrol on my super-exclusive life transformation package now. There are limited spots available (there aren’t by the way – there’s plenty) and it’s available for a bargain 3 grand per month. Yes, that’s right – for just a TINY monthly investment I’ll show you exactly how you can have a life like me…

It’s a tried and tested approach and it’s designed to lure vulnerable people into thinking someone else has the answer. First of all they open up with their own sob story… then they move onto how they nearly lost everything… then when things couldn’t get any worse, there was a breakthrough… now life is sweeeeet! Oh, by the way, pay me thousands and I can share my ‘secret’ with you.

‘Experts’ Are Ten a Penny…

It seems everyone on my facebook friends list is either trying to motivate me or sell me make up.

People I know to earn less than me, or people who seem to have more than the occasional life crisis have the gaul to offer these ‘transformational’ coaching packages, where basically they’ll show you how to have an incredible life.

They’ll describe themselves as ‘expert’ in particular, often obscure fields like ‘life transformation’ or ‘mindset coaching’.

You may have seen their videos – usually shot in the car (imagine being so fucking arrogant and thinking that your message is so important that it can’t wait until you’ve finished your journey), or sometimes whilst they’re out on a walk. It’ll usually be asking you to question something about your life or some other suitably vague point they’re making.

It’s the most Diet Coke, sub-GCSE grade philosophy that has usually been bastardised or misunderstood, then spewed back out to their followers.

Beyond that, it’s predatory. It preys on the easily-impressed and the vulnerable and I really can’t stand it as a business model. People with no definable skill, training or expertise can set themselves up as a motivational coach or life improvement guru, claiming to be capable of helping you to ‘clear mindset blocks’ and ‘open you up to a life of infinite possibility’.

Here’s My Problem With These Coaches…

There are people in the world with a genuine mental health problems, or a complex personality built over years and layer upon layer of issues. The kind of thing that these transformational coaches are WOEFULLY under-qualified to deal with.

I find it disgusting that there are people in the personal development world who will happily make promises to these vulnerable people, offering transformation and a life-changing experience via a motivational coaching programme.

If you are one of these coaches and you are reading this, understand that the people with mental health issues need help that you just can’t give them. No amount of ‘motivation’ is going to undo years worth of issues. You’re not qualified or capable of dealing with these problems, so stop making promises you can’t keep.

Do the right thing and refer them to a suitably qualified mental health professional. Your self-appointed expert title makes you qualified in precisely…. fuck all. Nothing. Know your limits, understand your boundaries and act accordingly.

The people with mental health issues can’t be ‘motivated’ out of depression or anxiety.

Environment Shifts Perspective…

One of the highlights of my working year is the Active Retreat – a fitness holiday I run where we take guests to a private villa in Fuerteventura.

During the week guests are fed a healthy diet all week, they do exercise, yoga, surf, cycle, get outside, rest and recover on a beach and generally have a great time. It’s brilliant week and all of the guests love it. I call it a physical and mental reboot for your body and mind, because you’re in a stress-free environment. You eat well, exercise well, rest well.

What I certainly DON’T call it is a transformational week. I know people who market their version of what I do as that, which I find abhorrent. Here’s why…

You can’t ‘transform’ a person with a week in the sun. It just doesn’t work for the longer term.

It’s pretty hard to be stressed when you’re here…

It’s really easy to shift your perspective on your life when you’re lying on a sunny beach, away from all the stresses and strains of ‘real’ life. You’ve slept well, exercised well and haven’t spent your morning in rush hour traffic.

But what happens when they return home? When everything that stresses them returns? Do these ‘coaches’ honestly believe they can equip people with coaching mechanisms and resilience over the space of a week?

I’ll tell you right now, they can’t.

Motivation Can’t be Outsourced…

Even if your mental health is good and you simply need a little guidance, it has to be strategic help, rather than somebody providing you with the get-up-and-go.

I have a fundamental belief that motivation can’t be outsourced. If you want to achieve anything in life, it has to be because you want it. A half-arsed approach to a task will result in no progress.

Not all motivations are the same.

The most motivated people I’ve ever met are the ones with a big, scary goal to achieve – that could be a triathlon, a wedding, a weight loss target – it doesn’t matter what it is, it just has to be borderline intimidating. It’s not entirely fitness related, but here’s an example of my own…

The laptop I’m writing this blog post on is a MacBook Pro. It cost me nearly £2k in 2012. Back then, my business was a year old (read, still in the early days and not making a huge amount of cash), I was saving for a house, my girlfriend was on maternity leave and we had a baby to feed. To spend the thick end of two grand on a computer probably wasn’t the wisest decision at the time.


I bought it knowing that I had to make it pay for itself. I had to justify a big expenditure and having that large hole in the account meant there was a constant reminder that I had to work hard to make it pay for itself.

It was the laptop that I used to build up this fitness blog over the years. It has had 100,000 visitors in the last 6 months (see proof below)…

Beyond that, I used it to write an HIIT eBook that still sells to this day (pick it up by clicking on the image below if you fancy it – only £3.99)

The BEST HIIT book on the market….!

Finally, it has been the platform to a fitness copywriting side business that earns me a not insignificant amount of money every month – certainly more than any of my annual salaries before I was self-employed.

It was a scary investment at the time, but it has more than paid for itself. If it wasn’t as scary an investment, would I have done the same amount of work? Perhaps, but the expensive laptop certainly accelerated my progress. It scared the shit out of me!

Back to my Original Point…

Motivation has to come from within. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, with artificial social media highlights and a fabrication of wonderful lives, it’s easy to flippantly think “I want to look like that, so I’m going to start training”.

That’s reactionary thinking though. It’s motivation that occurs in a fleeting moment, but it’ll disappear when the reality of hard work and dietary restriction comes in.

Real motivation is the kind of thing that builds over time. It’s when your goal (be it fitness, business, academic or whatever) is more important to you than staying comfortable. When the achievement of a goal is important enough to you that the discomfort that will come from it’s attainment can be overlooked, then you’re truly motivated.

It can’t be found via the enrolment on a life transformation package.

But Motivation Wanes…

Yes, you’re right. It often does. When your goals are fitness related, there are times when you’ll be sore, stiff, tired and aren’t sure if you can carry on. That’s the real test of motivation. You can get around it though – here’s a few tips…

  1. I watch YouTube videos – in my case, it’s mostly of Chinese weightlifters (it’s a niche taste, I know). They’re so technically perfect, it gives me something to aspire to.
  2. Spend time around people who push you on to do more. That could be a personal trainer, a training partner, some team mates. It’s OK to rely on others for motivation occasionally.
  3. I watch fitness documentaries – the CrossFit ones are good, but look for documentaries in sports or approaches to fitness you like. There’s plenty out there and it always works for me.
  4. Re-visit your progress. Look back at old workouts, at old videos of yourself, of old pictures. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Or you can do as my personal training client, Amy does – she records her progress on Instagram
1000 calorie diet, motivation

Just Don’t Outsource Your Motivation to a Charlatan…

There are some legitimately brilliant people in the world who can help you achieve your goals, but they don’t exist in the form of a guy with a special ‘programme’ that he advertises via Facebook. He may have turned around his life, but n doesn’t always equal 1, so tread carefully.

Look deeper – look at credentials, look at experience, look at history, look at success stories, look at them as people – do they live the life they espouse?

As Paul Chek said at a conference I attended in 2009, “if you don’t wear it, don’t share it” – he was referring to exercise and was telling delegates that if you want to be a successful personal trainer, you have to understand what a client goes through. You have to know what fatigue feels like, what it’s like to work hard and what you’re asking someone to do. You absolutely have to exercise yourself.

If you don’t exercise, how can you possibly expect others to do so?

The same message applies to these gurus. Unless you’ve got your entire life in check, your relationship is rock solid, your work life, home life, finances, emotions, physical and mental health is solid etc etc, you can’t go offering a service that helps guide people to a life of their dreams. You’re not qualified and you’re not able.

It smacks of arrogance.

If You’re Thinking of Joining a Coaching Programme, Remember…

They can’t and won’t fix you, motivate you, change your life, make you realise your dreams. That has to come from you, a coach merely points you in the right direction and helps you to navigate the tricky sections, often with a little encouragement.

By the way, if you want some tried and tested personal development advice, look no further than this…

It contains far more wisdom in the first few pages than 10,000 Facebook videos posted by a ‘guru’ in his car.

By the way, if you subscribe to the Hoyles Fitness mailing list you’ll receive a free eBook containing 101 Health and Fitness Tips, plus offers and news exclusive to Hoyles Fitness subscribers. Click the image below to download…

free health and fitness ebook

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Owner of Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

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