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In the world of coaching – be it personal development or personal training – the words motivation and determination have become buzzwords. As a personal development and career coach, Nadia Ismail has learned the value of differentiating the two, in order to facilitate long-term change.

During a recent coaching session with a client who is a personal trainer, we found that the words motivation and determination came up frequently, but my client wasn’t sure of the difference. The session inspired me to get into more detail about this and share some considerations for personal trainers around the topic.

You may use the words as part of your everyday practice, yet are you aware of the different roles the two aspects play in your clients reaching their goals? While they both form the foundation for success, it’s important to separate the two and get clear on what motivates clients, along with how determined they are to get there.

Let’s start by getting clear on the term ‘motivation’. The subject itself consists of multiple layers. Take a moment to consider your current client base: do you really know their core motivation and how do you facilitate self-motivation within your practice? Motivation links to our emotional state: it’s the want or desire to do something or achieve a set outcome. While having the motivation is where it all begins, what happens when the focus just isn’t present or obstacles start to get in the way? Now here’s where determination comes in.

Do you actually know how committed your client is? ‘Determination’ refers to how likely it is that your client will reach their goal as per the plans you both set out. The actions and behaviours from your client are ultimately what will get them to the end goal. Yes, motivation is important but just having the motivation with no driving force and a lack of action won’t provide the results. With this in mind, ask yourself how you can goal set, motivate and coach your clients throughout your programme. Let’s start from the beginning and focus on what your consultation and goal-setting session looks like.

Understanding client motivation

There’s a lot of talk about ‘getting clear on the goal’ but, without taking the time to understand the why behind a goal, we run the risk of motivation diminishing. Why is this goal so important to your client and what will it mean to them/bring them? Searching for answers that demonstrate intrinsic motivation will prove valuable.

Connecting to and triggering client motivation

How you use a client’s motivational triggers throughout the programme is fundamental – be mindful of any sensitive areas and ensure you continue to build trust. Our motivation links closely to our emotions, so empowerment provides great gain here for both of you. The use of visualisation throughout your programme can provide your clients with a great reminder of their personal why. Some clients might find it useful to get more creative and use other tools such as a mood board – exploring different options will prove beneficial. Be mindful that motivation can change along the way, so check in with your client and listen out for motivational triggers that might have changed.


Understanding how determined and committed your client is begins during the goal-setting phase. This doesn’t mean simply asking about what barriers might crop up when working through the ‘SMART’ model: there’s more to it. Pay close attention to understanding your client’s lifestyle and how you can both be prepared for potential barriers. How can you work with the client to provide a holistic approach that’s designed around their life or how can you support your client with their ability to prioritise?

Candid conversations, recognition and praise

Having the confidence to openly talk about a client’s motivational triggers and levels of determination requires trust on both sides. Consider how you can build trust within the relationship from start to finish, in order to get the right answers from them. Remember that this takes time, so be patient with the process. In addition to the above, aspects such as recognising your client’s achievements, thanking them for their transparency and demonstrating zero judgement will also contribute towards enhancing the relationship. This, in turn, will support the output and performance of your client and encourage them to be honest about what they want and why. Lastly, let’s not forget the value of reflection. Encouraging a client to reflect on their journey will support their self-recognition and empower them to continue working towards the end goal.

Having considered the points raised, it’s worth you taking the time to recognise your why as a coach or personal trainer and get clear on the driving force behind your determination. Being in tune with your why and being able to deliver this with authenticity proves invaluable.

Author Bio:

Nadia Ismail has worked in the Fitness industry for over 15 years, her experience within Management, Coaching and Sales have formed the foundation for her coaching practice today. This combined with her studies of Sports Psychology at University have resulted in her passion towards understanding what motivates us as adults. Now, as a Personal Development & Career Coach, she works with both individuals and businesses by supporting them with growth & development within their field.

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