Bodybuilding on the Right Side of the Brain

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Bodybuilding on the Right Side of the Brain

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You might have your training and nutrition lined up perfectly, but is your mind in the right place? Even the strictest diets and most well-thought-out training programs are only tools, and you need to have the right mindset to apply them! Your short-term motivation will wax and wane from day to day – especially when you’re leaning out – and only a true passion for bodybuilding will keep you going strong.

Sure, your logical “left brain” will hep you determine what you need to do to reach your goals, especially once you’ve mastered the bodybuilding basics. But it’s that not-so-rational, emotionally-driven side of yourself that will push you to actually apply what you know, day after day. In fact, it’s your right brain that will help you stick to your diet, do your cardio and endure one brutal training session after another when your body’s logical survival signals are telling you to sit on the couch and pig out!

For a little more understanding on bodybuilding motivation – and motivation in general – I like to look to an old TED Talk by Daniel Pink. Pink explained that, contrary to popular conceptions about workplace motivation, most people are not driven by “logical” motivators like extra money or better benefits. Assuming a comfortable level of pay, workers actually operate at their best when they’re free to pursue their passions, improve their skills, and exercise a large degree of control over their own schedules and lives.

Here are a few of his key points, along with some pointers on how you can apply them to your training, your nutrition, and every other aspect of your life!

Enjoy the Journey


Pink brought up a number of social experiments which shockingly showed that higher incentives do not motivate people to work faster, better, or more efficiently – when their tasks require creativity. When it comes to clear-cut, repetitive, drone-like jobs, more money does indeed entice people to work harder. But when complex thought and genuine interest are required, the job is its own reward!

If you’re a complete beginner to bodybuilding, then this might not mean much to you yet. You’ve got a basic, nearly fool-proof training plan, a decent diet, and newbie gains on your side, and you’re almost guaranteed to grow and progress for at least a year. Eventually, though, progress is going to stall, and you’re going to have to go spin your wheels for a while before you figure out what to do next.

When that happens, are you going to sit and sulk? Are you going to rethink this whole bodybuilding thing and consider a new hobby? I sure hope not! Whether you plan on competing or not, your longevity as a bodybuilder is going to depend on your true passion, on your enjoyment of the process itself. You may be years away from reaching your ideal physique, but the enjoyment of the process will keep you plugging away, one day at a time, until you get there!

Exercise Autonomy

According to Pink, there are three true motivators that help people perform high-level work. The first is autonomy, the ability to make your own important decisions and dictate the course of your career (or life). For people in the workplace, this means free will to accomplish tasks as they see fit, rather than suffering under a micromanaging boss or a rigid set of rules.

For you the bodybuilder, true autonomy is the ability – and the will – to choose your own path to your ideal physique. Again, beginners might rely on cookie-cutter programs and hard-and-fast rules for a while, but any successful bodybuilder must eventually make his own way. The longer you train and diet, the more you’ll learn what works for you as an individual. Likewise, the further you progress, the more important it will become to tailor your routine to your body, to become your own trainer!

Unfortunately, quite a few people who claim to love bodybuilding just want to have their hands held. Even after years of training – with little to show for it, I might add – guys will expect to have others lay out their ideal training routines, diets, and more. Not going to happen! The truly motivated lifter will be eager to tweak and customize his program to eek out every bit of progress he can. If you’re finding that your own motivation is sliding, try coming up with something new based on what you already found useful for yourself!

Master Your Craft

Pink’s second motivator was mastery, the pursuit of excellence for its own sake. It’s easy to see why mastery is important in a creative, demanding workplace. Assuming relatively consistent pay, any task can get old after a while. Computer programming, financial analysis, consulting, etc. – it can all become stale if you never improve. But if you’re constantly getting better, constantly adding more to your bag of tricks, you’ve got a never-ending source of fulfillment!

The same is true for bodybuilding. If you think about your routine over the course of several days, several weeks, a few months, or even a year, it might seem like you’re just constantly doing the same things. You train your body parts and lifts on a set schedule, you hit the gym at consistent times, and you eat more or less the same 5-6 meals one day after the next. But if you’re constantly trying to master every aspect of your lifting and eating, even a seemingly boring routine can take on new life!

You should strive to make every rep, every set, and every meal as effective as possible for the goals at hand. Little tweaks might seem insignificant to an outside observer, but you will be satisfied knowing that you’re always bringing yourself just a little closer to your goals. Since all you have to work with is the body you were with, bodybuilding is all about self-mastery!

Find Your Purpose

Finally, Pink explained that purpose is what really drives people to excel at their jobs in the long term. If you look at the people who are happiest in their chosen careers, you’ll probably notice that they find a great deal of meaning and importance in the work they do, and that they see their jobs are far more than just a means to a financial end.

Am I trying to say that bodybuilding should become your life’s sole purpose? No, not unless you really want it to be. But if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of us do treat bodybuilding as the most important component of our lives! We organize our schedules around our gym times, we eat our meals like clockwork, and we may even make social sacrifices to maintain the bodybuilding lifestyle.

What’s more, we don’t do these things just to reach a certain goal, we do them because they contribute positively to our lives as a whole, both physically and mentally. By pursuing excellence in bodybuilding, you can give yourself purpose and master the mental skills necessary to tackle your career, your relationships, and every other aspect of your life!


Justin Woltering is a distinguished Fitness Expert, Author, and Dymatize Sponsored Athlete. See


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