IS MOTIVATION OVERRATED????
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These three words helped eight times Mr.Olympia winner, Ronnie Coleman squat 800 lbs. When Kieran Behan, after having a cancerous tumor operated out of his thigh, was told he would never walk again, he turned this into an opportunity, training even harder and ended up qualifying for the London 2012Olympics. Michael Phelps, widely considered as the greatest Olympian swimmer of all time, suffered from ADHD as a child. However, he was able to overcome this limitation, remaining hyperfocused throughout his years as an athlete, bringing home 19 Olympic medals, 15 of which are gold. If you haven’t guessed it by now, this article is about a certain quality, an invisible driving force, common to all achievers and masters of their craft, that helps them see beyond limitations, far beyond possibility or disability, ultimately enabling them to deliver performances that conquer billions of hearts across the world. This force is Motivation. What is a motivation? Motivation can be thought of as the intensity and direction of one’s efforts. It is the psycho-emotional process that initiates and sustains the consistent behavior of all high performing individuals. Obviously, achievers come from all walks of life. However, in this article, we will be exploring motivation in its application towards health and fitness. Types of motivation Traditionally, there are two types of motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to an athlete being driven by their passion for the sport and the inherent reward he/she perceives in participation. It is about pulling one’s own strings and consistently performing, even without any external source of encouragement. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is something that comes from outside and has the ability to push us to do better. It could be anything really, an award, praise from loved ones or even the fear of failure or punishment. Also, within the domain of motivation, lies a more specific type called Achievement Motivation. Researchers state that we all have opposing personality traits known as MAS (Motive to achieve success) and MAF (Motive to avoid failure). Generally, MAS dominant athletes are more inclined towards challenging situations with about 50% probability of success. MAF dominant athletes, however, are more comfortable in situations where it is either very easy to achieve success (thereby avoiding shame) or extremely difficult so that there would be no expectation of success (again, eliminating the likelihood of feeling shame). To elaborate a little more on MAF- a certain athlete is seen to excel at local/ community level competitions and performs equally well at the national level (greater difficulty) events. However, at a regional level, where the probability of success is 50/50, he/she somehow usually underperforms. The primary approach for such athletes is that they need to be exposed to as little specific information as possible, as they are easily overwhelmed by too much detail and end up assigning too much importance to specifics that are not critical to performance. Even relatively neutral information like logging maximum weights lifted or recording exact daily schedules can confuse such athletes and it is ultimately better to take a qualitative approach rather than a highly calculated one. So, intrinsic or extrinsic, which one is better? Well, in my opinion, each has its own place. Can you imagine going for a squat PR without some music or a friend to motivate you? On the other hand, will you not attempt that PR if there is no music or pre-workout drink or friend there? Overuse of extrinsic sources, be it people, awards or that latest motivational video, ultimately makes you dependent on them. Ideally, you should make intrinsic motivation the core of your approach and drive. With that said, let’s take a look at some intrinsic and extrinsic techniques to get you going when the going gets tough. Techniques to bring out your best: The Right Reason Before starting out on any training program, ask yourself why do you want to do this? Anger, jealousy, and a desire to earn the respect of others can be powerful emotions but they will eventually fade away. The primary driving force should be your love for the activity itself and your desire to get better at it. If you are deadlifting three times your body weight, do it to get stronger, not for Instagram likes. Personal Goal Setting One of the most fulfilling emotions one can experience is the result of setting a target, working towards it and surpassing it. Set both short term and long term goals for yourself. A simple example could be to aim for the “strongest competitor” title at the national powerlifting meet four years from now (long-term) but it has to start with perfecting your deadlift technique within a set number of weeks (short term). Visualization and Positive Self Talk Assuming a foundation of physical capability is established, the most powerful and influential aspect of performance is how you perceive a situation and your ability to deal with it. You need to see yourself winning before you can actually win. The thoughts and words you use to describe yourself and the situation you are faced with, have more effect than you realize. Always speak in a positive and encouraging way to yourself and about yourself. Replace the words “I Can’t” with “Let me try” and that coveted six-pack will seem much more achievable. The Greatest Competitor A powerful extrinsic method is to identify the greatest athlete in your sport, analyze what qualities make him/her the best, and emulate the principles behind this person’s magic. Put up a picture of this athlete on your wall and ask yourself what you need to do to perform better than him/her and whether you are doing it. Positive Cues Small things can have strong effects even if they are meant to be short-term influencers. Motivational quotes, inspirational photographs or even a former picture of yourself can be the difference between missing your workout because you weren’t in the mood and hitting a Bench-press PR on the same day. The Training Partner Last, but not least, we are social creatures and the strongest of us need some help from time to time. This applies largely to the realm of health and fitness. A good training partner will keep you accountable and push you beyond your comfort zone while ensuring safety. Needless to say, Michael Jordan would not have as many championship rings without Scottie Pippen by his side. The only caveat and a selfish one at that are you should always identify someone better than you to be your training partner. The techniques mentioned above are guidelines at best and perfection should be thought of as simply the fundamentals done well for a very long time. In the long run, you need to make a habit out of putting in your best efforts every day, as opposed to hitting personal records on one day and missing your workout on other days. To conclude, Motivation is not the end all of the performance. You still need the foundation of physical strength and technical proficiency. But it is that invisible hand, irrespective of source, that makes the difference between a champion and a runner-up who was just as good.