Self-Motivation — The Wanna-Be and Gonna-Be

 A captain performs a clean during a workout in Afghanistan.
Capt. Brent W. Reno, operations battle captain, Task Force Protector, performs a clean as a portion of his CrossFit workout of the day while Maj. Robert L. Smith (black shirt), intelligence officer in charge, Task Force Protector, spots him at Camp Sabalu-Harrison, Afghanistan, July 9, 2012. (Staff Sgt. Faiza Evans/42nd Military Police Brigade)

Most people who email me are pretty motivated but need guidance on how to get to a new level of fitness and health. Every now and then, though, I receive emails from those who say they want to be in the military but have been unmotivated for a year or more to prepare physically for the military or law enforcement.

This is a problem. Here is an email from a young man seeking to join either the military or police force:

Hello, I am a recent college graduate and used to be an athlete in high school, but I have not worked out in more than two years with any consistency. I know I need to lose weight for my health, but I also want to get a job in the military or police. I am not sure which one, and I just cannot get motivated to go and work out. Any suggestions?

The good news is that you are young enough to get in shape relatively quickly. Four to six months of daily fitness at your age will help your ability to survive whatever training you are seeking.

However, ask yourself whether this is an attempt at "job hunting," or are you really motivated to serve your country in the military or police force? These are honorable professions that require personal drive and motivation to succeed, not just a place to pick up a check every two weeks.

Learn More On Motivation to Change

One day while performing your duties, your fitness may mean the difference between life and death of yourself or your buddy. If that does not motivate you to work out, then I am not going to be able to do it by holding your hand and telling you that you can do it if you try. Ask yourself: Do you want to serve your country enough that you are willing to suck up the pain of preparation in order to achieve the goal of proudly wearing that uniform?

Another thing you will develop when you start to train hard is self-confidence. You will sharpen your mental toughness by pushing your fitness levels each week. One thing I have learned by being in the military/law enforcement fitness and fitness writing business for the past 10 years is that you can set the example for people to follow, but you cannot make them follow.

I do not motivate people to work out. You have to do that, and when you are motivated to work out, let me know, and I can help you reach the level of fitness you need.

When you truly are motivated to serve, you will do whatever in your power to prepare yourself. You have to understand that we are at war with people who want to shoot you for your ideals and beliefs. Whether it is your belief of freedom for all or justice to those who break the law, you will embody that belief in the uniform you choose to wear.

It is not just a job. It is a noble profession that you always will treasure having served in and you will never forget those who served and the new generation that still serves after you. Now get to work.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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