Deeds in themselves are meaningless unless they are for some higher purpose. – King Arthur
Running in “Secret”
After my mental meltdown on Tuesday, I decided I needed to do a little work on my mental state. And for me, that means research, research, research (I’m very exciting, I know). I wanted to find out how the “experts” continue to stay motivated after years and years of working, failing, dusting themselves off, and starting again. How do people keep going?
According to the smart people, motivation is either intrinsically or extrinsically generated. Makes total sense – you are motivated by a personal challenge (Can I finish 100 miles? Can I set a PR?), or by the environment around you (I want to beat Calvin! I’ll win this and get the prize!), or both (Wow, if I set my PR, I’m going to win this thing!).
With my motivation waxing and waning this year, I’ve been very curious about what motivates – me, and those around me. I’ve always been into biographies, but for the last few years, I’ve taken a special interest in people who seem to be operating at full-tilt in their lives – chefs, triathletes, entrepreneurs, scientists, writers, adventurers – and bridging the gap between doing what they love and excellence. Most of the time, the key ingredient seems to be simple: practice, practice, practice. The theory seems to hold that if you do something for 10,000 hours, you will become “expert” at it.
Okay, I buy that. But what happens after the 10,000 hours? After you’re an expert? How do the experts keep going, keep the fires burning, move to the highest levels?
I know that I am rarely motivated extrinsically. In fact, external “motivation” seems to have the opposite effect on me. I HATE people telling me what I should be doing, what I should care about, what is best for me (I know, real mature, huh?). In fact, the more external pressure I feel, the less motivated I am to perform. I do much better if nobody knows what I am doing, when all my goals are private (strange position for a blogger, I realize).
The problem lies in the fact that it is impossible to do everything in private. If it was up to me, I would just train and train (in super ugly clothes and a bandana ala Olivia Newton-John), and then never race – but what’s the point in that? If there is no higher purpose to all the training, then why do it? Simply put: I need new motivation. And there has to be a way to stay intrinsically motivated while not bowing to external pressure, because there will always be external pressure. Because, let’s face it, even Olivia had pressure teaching that aerobics class – pressure is everywhere.
So, what motivates you? And how do you stay motivated? How do you cope with the pressure from external sources?
While I’m waiting for some great inspiration, I think I will head to the beach for a swim. I’ve found that nothing is quite as motivating as a shark to get me moving!