Have you fallen off the wagon and struggling to get motivated again to train?
Are you a pro triathlete who finds it difficult to dig deeper when it really counts?
Do you find it hard to push yourself even further when you feel there’s no realistic chance to changing the race outcome?
If this sounds like you, read on to discover how to stay motivated all year round, dig deeper when you need to and always perform at your best.
1. The foundation of your motivation is focus and your why’s
Simon Sinek, British-American author, motivational speaker and organisational consultant says, ‘Everyone knows what they do, some know how they do it, but very few people know why they do what they do.’.
By ‘why’, Sinek doesn’t mean winning the race, placing on the podium or achieving a PB - as that’s the outcome. Sinek is actually talking about your purpose, your cause, your reason, your belief. It is these things that will make you get out of bed at 5am in the morning, to jump into a freezing cold lake when the sun’s barely out, or to push yourself harder to close that 12 minute lead gap in the race.
International sport psychology consultant and performance coach Simon Hartley (2012, 2013) says that knowing your why’s is also intrinsically linked to consistent long-term focus, which is what creates champions.
World-class long-term focus comes from triathletes knowing their why’s - their reasons for training and racing. Their dream and their why’s for achieving it, motivates and drives them to train hard and smart everyday.
During the marathon run of Ironman Texas, pro-Norwegian triathlete Allan Hovda was very focused on beating the Norwegian course record of 8 hours 26 minutes - which he did! Hovda was very task-orientated, focusing on cooling himself down and ensuring his race pace was good, but he also thought a lot about his why’s to help him push through this tough race.
If you find you’re lacking motivation to train or to push yourself that much harder, it might be because you don’t really know why you’re doing what you do - or your why isn’t powerful enough and/or you just don’t have enough! Let me explain more below…
2. Why you can’t ‘lose' your motivation
I’m just going to say it, you can’t ‘lose’ or ‘run out’ of motivation. I’m not trying to click-bait you, but as you read on things will become clearer and you’ll see that this statement is true.
Motivation is an emotion, it’s a state of being - not a thing, which it often disguises itself as when we describe ‘losing it’ or it ‘running out’.
As Phil Parker, psychologist of health, happiness and genius guy says, if you can’t put it in a wheelbarrow, then it’s a feeling. (If you’re a triathlete, you may replace wheelbarrow with kitbrix or transition bag!)
[Listen to Phil Parker on The Adelaide Podcast talk about how to re-wire your brain to influence your neurology in a health way by clicking here.]
So if it’s a feeling, you can’t really lose it… You just need to learn how to influence your thoughts and feelings so you can feel that motivation again!
3. How to influence our levels of motivation
As I’ve mentioned, we have to have a purpose or a reason to achieve something, it’s that simple. When we feel our motivation levels ebbing, this is often because we have forgotten the importance of why we do what we do - our purpose. As Simon Hartley rightly reminds us too, our why is not static, it changes with time.
A pro triathlete may have started competing in triathlon because it was fun, but as it became their career, their motivation to race changed. It’s now about winning, attaining recognition and respect from others. However, is winning the right foundations to build your motivation on? Similarly, is achieving a certain time or placement the best why to have?
If winning, achieving a specific time or race placement is your why, this is a vulnerable place to be. It’s like building a home with unstable foundations. This is because your reason could disappear and with it, your motivation. What if you’re not experiencing success? What if you’re not winning or hitting your goals? If your reason for racing has gone, will you still feel really motivated to train or push yourself even harder?
Tying your why into winning and achieving your goals is especially dangerous, because often athletes’ enjoyment for the sport is intrinsically linked to hitting PB’s and placing on the podium. When these things aren’t happening, they find their motivation dries up with it.
4. How to build a solid foundation for epic levels of motivation
To have epic levels of motivation, you need a why - a purpose - that is very strong, resilient and compelling, and it must come from within. Your why cannot be determined by or reply upon outside influences, such as praise, PB’s and podium finishes.
Navy SEAL, world class ultra athlete and world record holder David Goggins says you have to want it bad enough, you have to become obsessed with what you want to achieve. Your why must make you unstoppable.
Having one strong, resilient and compelling why lays a fairly solid foundation, however to create the ultimate force that will empower you to stop at nothing until you’ve achieved your goal, you need multiple why’s. A pyramid or tripod of why’s gives you a very solid foundation. This is because if you lose one why, you have many others to keep you motivated.
Here are some questions that will help you uncover your why’s. Keep asking yourself these questions or variations of them until you have a set of why’s you’re happy with.
What are your reasons for training or competing?
Are you truly motivated by the pure love and enjoyment for what you do or has this evolved into something else?
If you took away winning, achieving a podium finish or hitting a PB, would this decrease your motivation to compete?
If you’re not achieving the success you dreamed of, what would make you keep pushing yourself?
What would drive you forward if no one gave you recognition, praise or respect?
If you have a lead of 20 minutes, what would keep you racing at the best of your ability?
Why is winning and/or hitting your goals important to you?