For athletes, motivation can be a thing that may fade in and out over the duration of a season. Motivation can seem to decrease at any given point in a season because perhaps this is the start of the off-season, or maybe you have just competed in one of your peak events and have a few months until the next one. Or maybe you are just entering the start of the competitive season, and you are starting to feel fatigue and sluggishness as a result of all the hard work that went into the months of gruelling preparation. Whatever the case may be, if you are starting to feel this way; know that you are not alone!
Feeling a decrease in motivation is not something most athletes take particularly well, and it can feel much harder if the athlete is unequipped with methods for regaining motivation. The first step to increasing motivation is to set some goals. Goals are great for helping us keep our eyes on the prize, and for guiding us on the path we want to take. (See last month’s blog post on goal setting to help you lay your path!) However sometimes with even the slightest of missteps, a goal can begin to seem daunting, causing many to abandon their goals.
In order to stay motivated after setting your goals and to avoid abandonment, you need to define your purpose. Your goal is the “what”, now you must define your “why”. Ask yourself why you set the goal that you did. If your goal is to compete for your country at the Olympics, WHY do you want to do that? If your goal is to complete your first 5k race, WHY do you want to do that?
The goal is the destination and the steps you need to take to get there, the “why” is light that will guide you there. Having a purpose associated with your goal is a key ingredient to help maintain or increase motivation, but that purpose needs to come from within to be the most effective. The more self-determined, or from within your purpose is, the higher the level of motivation it will produce. The example purposes listed in Figure 1 below demonstrate that the more internal the purpose is, the more self-determined the individual becomes. All individuals are naturally oriented towards growth, and have a natural inclination to seek optimal challenges, extend themselves and strive to learn and master new skills by freely applying their talents and abilities. So if a goal is set that will lead the athlete to progress in some way while not feeling restricted, he or she will be innately focused on achieving that goal. In other words, when a suitable goal is set with a more internal purpose, the higher the level of self-determination that will be demonstrated. And the more self-determined the individual is, the more ambitious and motivated he or she will become.
As can be seen in the examples in Figure 1, the degree of an internal motive can vary. The forth example of “it will help me open doors for my future as a coach” is labelled somewhat internal, because there is still an external component to it. Getting a career as a coach not only depends on internal factors such as one’s persistence in applying and passion for the job, but also on a variety of external factors such as the amount of job openings in the field and the number of applicants. So when defining a purpose, it is critical to evaluate whether it is a fully internal motive, or if there are any outside elements that may have an impact. The fewer the external influences, the higher the level of motivation your “why” will provide you with. So take advantage of this opportunity to be completely self-centered and egotistical; it is one of the few times thinking about only yourself will provide a positive pay off!
Horn, T. S. (2008) Advances In Sport Psychology (pp. 128-34). Oxford, Ohio: Human Kinetics.