How to master your motivation

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Have you lost your motivation to train? Are you struggling to make it to your training sessions because you’re tired, just don’t feel like it or other stuff just gets in the way?

If this sounds familiar, keep reading.

It may feel like you’ve lost your motivation like you lose your car keys, but as psychology of health, happiness & genius expert Phil Parker says, if you can’t put it in a wheelbarrow, then it’s a feeling!

So if motivation is a feeling, then 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! It may feel impossible now, but by practicing the three tools I talk about in today’s blog, you’ll be feeling that motivation again soon! After all, you always find your car keys in the end!

What exactly is motivation?

Motivation is the driving force behind what we do and what we don’t do, it therefore helps explain our reasons behind our actions, behaviours, decisions, thoughts and beliefs (Rabideau, 2005 and Hartley, 2012). As we can start to see, it’s so important that we understand our motives for engaging and performing in triathlon and how we can influence our levels of motivation.

Our motives to engage and perform in triathlon can stem from the pure joy of the sport, satisfaction from tri-ing, enhance our wellbeing and/or achieve a reward, such as to win that all important medal (Chantal et al. 1996)! By choosing to participate in the training and race, we also experience a sense of direction and purpose, which adds fuel to the fire of our motivation.

Norwegian pro-triathlete Allan Hovda, who recently placed 11th in the North American Ironman Championships at Ironman Texas and broke the Norwegian course record by 6 minutes, is driven by his desire to achieve his potential, give his best on race day and win or break the Norwegian course record, if possible. This motivates him to fit training in-between work and family time, to complete a 5 hour turbo ride, become the most aerodynamic athlete in the world and more.

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

We’ve been working on a lot of the techniques I outline below, not just to increase motivation to push harder when the time comes in a race, but to really enhance Hovda’s performance during training and racing. 

We’ve been working on a lot of the techniques I outline below, not just to increase motivation to push harder when the time comes in a race, but to really enhance Hovda’s performance during training and racing.

What is the foundation of motivation?

Simon Hartley (2012, 2013), international sport psychology consultant and performance coach, believes that our motivation is based on the dynamic relationship between knowing our ‘why’s’ and our long-term focus.

Long-term focus refers to what we want to achieve the most - our dream, our ultimate goal, from racing in a particular race to winning a specific race. This long-term focus comes from us knowing our purpose - our reason(s) behind our need and desire to achieve our dream. It’s our purpose and reasons that will drive us to start training at 5:00am, to jump in the freezing cold lake or get on the road when the sun’s just coming up, or to push ourselves harder when it’s time.

As Simon Sinek (2009), 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.’ In order to increase your motivation to extraordinary levels, you need to know why you train and race. Often when we lose our motivation, it’s because we’ve forgotten our reasons for training and racing. Now it’s time to get it back.

During the marathon run of Ironman Texas, Hovda was very focused on beating the Norwegian course record of 8 hours 26 minutes, which he did. Hovda concentrated 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 touch race.

How to find your why (and develop long term focus)

To have epic levels of motivation, you need very strong, resilient and compelling reasons for achieving your dream, and they must be internally driven. As Navy SEAL, world class ultra athlete and world record holder David Goggins says, your reasons must make you unstoppable.

It’s important that your reasons are internally driven, because if they’re determined by or rely upon outside influences, such as praise, personal records and podium finishes, they could disappear and with it, your motivation. If your reason for training and racing has gone, such as winning or hitting a personal record, would you still feel really motivated to train?

You may have noticed that I’ve been saying why’s and reasons throughout this blog? This is because while one strong, resilient and compelling why lays a fairly solid foundation, many why’s creates the ultimate force that will enable you to stop at nothing until you’ve achieved your dream. A pyramid or tripod of why’s therefore provides you a very solid foundation, because if you lose one why, you have many others to keep you motivated.

Below are some questions that will help you uncover your dream and why’s for achieving it. Keep asking yourself these questions or similar ones until you’re happy.

  • What is your ultimate goal?

  • What would you really love to achieve?

  • 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 achieving a personal record would this decrease your motivation to train and race?

  • 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?

  • Why is hitting your goals important to you?

How to stay on track in the short term

As you now know, incredible levels of motivation come from having a clear long-term focus and reasons to engage in the training and racing. However, it’s vital that you don’t lose sight of the everyday processes that will help you achieve your sporting dream (Hartley, 2012). To keep your motivation levels stoked on a daily basis, we’re going to look at how you can apply this structure to your everyday life.

Time is a precious resource, so your actions must lead you down the most effective and efficient pathway to achieving your ultimate goal. You need to invest your mental energy and effort on one goal each day that you can influence and will have the greatest impact on your performance - the training session that will help you knock 1 minute off your time, not 1 second (this is where a coach can come in handy!).

An influential goal each day refers to a goal that is dependent on how well you perform, such as hitting a certain power output during a ride, or how well you execute an action, such as efficient swim stroke - instead of the outcome, such as a personal record or podium finish.

To cultivate high levels of motivation each day, create a schedule each week with each day having a clear focus and goal that contributes to your dream. If you have a training session that day, know your number one focus for that session and understand how it will help you enhance your performance. If you have a coach, you can ask them to incorporate this into your tasks. This will provide you with that clear focus and a strong reason to engage in the training, which will fuel your motivation.

Hovda and his coach Carson Christen, schedule his training sessions in advance and each session has a clear focus, so Hovda knows why it is important and how it will increase his performance. As a result, Hovda rarely misses a training session and gives each one his all.

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

Staying motivated by staying confident

Self-confidence is thought to be one of the key motivators in athlete’s everyday lives (Druckman and Bjork, 1994). Your levels of confidence around achieving your goal, such as being able to compete in a triathlon race like The London Triathlon, or setting a new personal best for a certain distance, determine your levels of motivation (Druckman and Bjork, 1994 and Hartley, 2012). When you feel really confident that you can achieve your goal, you feel more motivated to put in the work to succeed. Unfortunately, the contrary is true too. When you feel achieving a certain goal is hopeless, your level of motivation drops and you’re less likely to train.

One of the best ways to increase your levels of confidence is to look for and see the evidence that you can achieve your goal. You can use evidence from your triathlon experience or use experiences across your life that prove to you that you can achieve your goals or master a skill, from as simple as tying your shoe lace or learning to drive a car to getting that promotion at work and buying your house.

As a mindset coach to athletes, I find the best technique to increasing levels of confidence is creating an incredible mental cookie jar. Each cookie in your awesome jar represents a time when overcame a obstacle, achieved a goal and/or a time that shows you that you can do it. Remember 3-5 times that will help you feel really confident about achieving your current goal and place them in your amazing cookie jar in your mind.⠀

The next time you experience self-doubt or that negative self-talk, pull out a cookie or two and remind yourself of the greatness within you.⠀

When coaching all of my athletes, I use this technique or a similar one to ensure they’re confident about achieving their goals. It’s taken US paraclimbers to National and World Championship competitions and helped Hovda build world class confidence levels in all areas of training and racing.

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

Athlete: Allan Hovda. Photo credit: James Mitchell and Quintana Roo

Athlete and photo credit: Whitney Pesek

Athlete and photo credit: Whitney Pesek

If you want your motivation mojo back, give these three things a go and see what works for you! They’re really powerful in unison, but if you’re short on time they’re equally powerful used separately. Have any question? Send me an email to adelaide@adelaidegoodeve.comHappy training!


References

Chantal, Y., F. Guay, T. Dobreva-Martinova and R.J. Vallerand (1996) Motivation and elite performance - An exploratory investigation with Bulgarian athletes. International Journal of Sports Psychology, 27, 173-182.

Druckman, D. and R. Bjork (1994). Learning, remembering, believing. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Hartley, S. (2012). Peak performance every time. London: Routledge.

Hartley, S. (2013). Two lengths of the pool. Be World Class.

Rabideau, S. (2005). Effects of Achievement Motivation on Behavior. [online] Personalityresearch.org. Available at: http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/rabideau.html [Accessed 1 May 2019].

Sinek, S. (2009). How great leaders inspire action. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en [Accessed 1 May 2019].