Motivation is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as the reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular manner. You will hear some people claim that they could be great if only they had the correct motivation, while others claim that motivation is irrelevant and all that matters is discipline. In both instances they are failing to understand that motivation explain why actions were undertaken but doesn’t address the issues. Saying you lack motivation therefore you didn’t go to the gym, is like saying we lost the game because they scored more points than we did. It sounds like you are making a point but really there's no insight there.
Motivation is a by-product of your values, perceptions and processes. If you are struggling with motivation then you need to understand the root of your problem look for elements in these three categories that are misaligned or dysfunctional and address them. Think about why you do what you do and be honest with yourself. Try to understand what motivates you and harness that. Plato once said that ‘the first and best victory is to conquer self’.
There are a host of articles on this subject many of which are directed at gym goers. The same issues get covered in many of them identify and address self-sabotaging beliefs, develop your own self efficacy, challenge your own thought processes rationally, use commitment contracts and keep on searching for ways of enjoying the process. The goal of these steps is to internalise your motivation and behave in a manner that aligns with your values. All of these methods hold merit and are worth trying.
Exercise isn’t about motivating yourself once or twice it is about forming a long lasting habit. To do this can be very difficult as most of the habits that we pick up we develop them naturally. Developing a new habit takes longer then many people realise and there is an urban legend that it takes 21 days to form a new habit which was based on anecdotal evidence. A University College London researcher found the average for forming a new habit was found to be closer to 66 days, for a more detailed article on this topic go here.
When you struggle and suffer setbacks remember that the way you perceive the world and the way you behave is in your control and always will be.
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realise this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward” -Henry Ford