10 February 2016

Tackling Motivation

Staying motivated in any extended activity can be a challenge. It is critical to have coaches and guides with great technical knowledge, as well as the ability to inspire and push you towards your full potential.

This doesn't only refer to sport, but to life. How many times have you tried something but failed to remain motivated? Maybe you quit because it was too hard, frustrating or you had too much pressure to succeed? Keeping motivation is difficult when we can no longer see a reason to enjoy an activity. Perhaps your success has pushed you into a higher level of competition and the intensity is no longer fun.

You are your own competitionI have experienced this more than a few times in my life but nothing comes to mind more than when I played competitive pool (8-ball). In this comp there were 10 divisions, with div 1 being the highest. I started in division 8 with an average team. I had a few friends in divisions 2 and 3 and filled in for them on occasion due to illness or work. My skill set was thus significantly higher than where I was playing but I had little pressure so could enjoy it more. I switched teams and divisions a few times as player's commitments and priorities changed. I remained in division 5 for several years and we all generally had fun with challenging opponents. That changed when we won the grand final and were thus forced into div 4.

It started out OK, but our new opponents took everything too seriously. The pressure to play your best was enormous. If you had one or two poor shots you quickly lost. The enjoyment plummeted not only for me but for the entire team. We disbanded after a season rather than taint our enjoyment of the game. This is something everyone needs to address at some point. Our reasons for playing was for a fun night out with friends and some good competition. As soon as that changed our motivation sagged.

I have also struggled with motivation for losing weight, there have been times I just couldn't be bothered training or going to work. But thinking about why you are doing something you can restore motivation during difficult times.

The multiple aspects of motivation
To succeed and cope with the demands of that success you must enjoy what you are doing, remember where you started and maintain perspective. Obviously if we aren't enjoying that activity (sports) or the results (less weight, bigger muscles etc) then we can't see why we should continue. Take a look back on just how far you have come from when it all started. Don't focus on the fact you gained 4kg over Christmas, remember that you lost 20kg this year. Also know where you are and what you are trying to achieve. Don't worry about the struggles at the end point when you are only half way. Your plans and goals should have an understanding of the end result but concentrate on the obstacle in front of you now.

I will dig deeper in future articles but for now try to follow these guidelines.

Maintain control of your life. Figure out your priorities for how you spend your time. Take care of your needs, and that of your loved ones, first. You should have time for rest and relaxation, proper nutrition, life's simple pleasures, physical activities and anything else you consider important. Its your life and your time so spend it wisely to make the best of it.

Create a plan on how to deal with demands. Life can't be planned in detail and the unexpected will crop up. Expect that this will happen and make a systematic plan on dealing with it. Figure out how many different demands you can reasonably tackle at various points in the year and don't take on more. School holidays may see you cutting back on the gym to take care of the kids. Establish a black out on your time when you are not available for external demands. Advise those important to you and stick to it. Demands and priorities change, accept what is important to you and let others slip.

Remember what you did to get to this point. The process and activities you stuck to in order to get where you are now clearly worked. Don't throw them away due to a few bad weeks. Remember the basics and reflect on what allowed you to succeed. Working hard, taking adequate rest, enjoyment of the activities, belief in yourself and your coaches, mental and physical preparedness and accepting new challenges are all required to stay positive and get the results you expect.

Figure out how to avoid distractions. Set your focus on what you can control and what you want to achieve. If you can't control something there is no point worrying about it. Plan on how you can work around these uncontrollable issues but don't let them distract you. Draw on the expertise of others when planning. Other athletes have faced similar issues as you, and your coach has overcome greater obstacles. Lean on their wisdom.

If you are really struggling with emotional and mental well being you can utilise a Peak Performance Psychologist for managing thoughts and feelings and how to cope with life's many challenges. Please share your experiences and challenges in the comments.

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