Motivation is the power source of all performance.
Without motivation, there is no will to work.
Without the will to work, there is no progress.
Without progress, there is no achievement.
And without the potential for achievement, there is no real reason to begin.
So here’s the secret to all motivation. It is love. All people who love what they are doing and who feel loved have found the secret to success.
So how do you tap into the single most motivating force in all athletics, and for that matter, life itself?
HOW TO LOVE YOUR WORK
Secret #1: Loving the challenges
All great athletes know the secret to loving your work is to work backward from the goal you hope to achieve. That’s where you find reason to love what you are doing.
On that morning when the rain comes down and you don’t feel like going outside for a ride or a run, motivation must come from the context of your goals.
Often your training time is irreplaceable. You schedule it for a particular reason due to time constraint or the rhythm of your training plan.
That means challenges to your schedule are just that: challenges. Plus overcoming challenges in training involves the same sort of will required to overcome challenges during your race or event.
That means you need to learn to love what you’re doing even when it is not comfortable or easy. The very reason you don’t want to go out in the rain; that you’ll get wet on the bike, or have to dodge puddles, be careful on the corners, or get chilled before getting in the water (so long as there is no lightning during all of this) must become the root source of your motivation.
The rewards of this determination can be fantastic. On a morning when my cycling buddies opted out of a bike ride on a rainy Saturday morning, I was already dressed in a rain jacket and ready to go. After they cancelled by text, I rode out into a driving rain and laughed at the absurdly loud sound of water pelting the streets. For 10 miles the rain kept up. Then it stopped. I’d reached the western edge of the storm and paused to peel off my rain jacket. Underneath I was sweaty but not soaked. My feet were wet and my tights were still wet, but over the next 25 miles the sun came out and I dried off quickly in fresh breeze following the storm. That ride felt extra tremendous for having faced a challenge.
And it made me love what I was doing despite the challenges. That’s how it works.
Secret#2: Loving who you are
The second source of motivation that all athletes need is acceptance of who you are. That does not mean a lack of will to improve. Quite the opposite. We are talking about a core acceptance here, one that includes the willingness to work on your flaws.
Because until you accept your flaws and learn to love and acknowledge their existence, you cannot really identify the areas in which you need to progress.
This is perhaps the most difficult of all concepts to comprehend for many athletes. Because when you look around at your competition and see the people who beat you in races it can seem like those athletes do not suffer the same weaknesses as you. And that’s true. But here’s a fact: they have different weaknesses because they’re different people. They face challenges just like you.
So the trick to improvement and loving who you are is to develop that deep understanding of your weaknesses and to love yourself for the strengths you do have. And then go to work on those weaknesses. Learn persistence and enjoy the love of seeing progress in those areas of weakness.
There is no better feeling in the world than overcoming your own flaws in some way. It’s true on a personal basis and it is also true in your relationships with others. Loving who you are is always a matter of acknowledging your weaknesses so that you know how to work on them. Those who love you will feel even greater love toward you for that honesty and care.
Secret #3: Loving to suffer
The will to win is not always a pretty thing. It can drive athletes to extremes and create an unhealthy obsession with beating others at the sport in which you choose to excel. So let’s face facts: when you love to win or set out to get a personal best or achieve some goal, it’s seldom easy.
Because when you’re in the last mile of a 10k, or finishing the final leg of a triathlon, the desire to quit or slow down can be pretty strong. So you have to want to overcome that pain and fatigue or you don’t get the job done. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s not impossible to surpass.
Our college cross country team had a saying that helped us through those closing miles when it hurt really bad to stick with the pace. “It’s only temporary…” we’d say. And it worked.
Because most pain associated with endurance sports is only temporary. If you’re otherwise healthy and not fighting actual injury or other chronic issues, the discomfort goes away when you complete the race or training you set out to do.
And those two things go together. You must teach yourself to learn to suffer during training so that when you encounter those feelings in a race they do not make you panic or want to give up. We called it “callousing the body.” Just like that callous on your big toe that keeps you from getting blisters from your shoes. You callous yourself from pain and fatigue by training hard enough (and harder than you think sometimes) to make the racing experience seem easier.
#Secret #4: Loving the source of your inspiration
There are many examples in history and religion where people suffered for their cause and achieved great things. One thinks of Nelson Mandela in prison all those years, contemplating the goal of civil rights for all in South Africa. He could have come out of that experience bitter and angry. Instead, he turned his liberation into triumph.
The same held true for activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi, Mother Teresa and yes, even Gloria Steinem. Some aspects of their achievements were controversial to some, yet they stuck by their vision to change the world for better.
It may not feel like you’re changing the world by going out to train each day. And when you finish in the middle of the pack at a major triathlon, it can feel like you’re invisible even after you’ve heard your name called out by the announcer. But guess what? By loving what you’re doing and doing it to the best of your ability, you are changing the world for the better too. By setting an example for yourself. By setting an example for your family or friends. Your work and achievement produce results. You can become healthier and relieve stress from the pressures of the world, which can be so unloving and intense.
But guess what? By loving what you’re doing and doing it to the best of your ability, you are changing the world for the better too. By setting an example for yourself. By setting an example for your family or friends. Your work and achievement produce results. You can become healthier and relieve stress from the pressures of the world, which can be so unloving and intense.
The secret to loving what you’re doing when you run, ride and swim is to let yourself love and be loved in return. You will come to believe in yourself and the force of love in the universe in the process. And that’s the most powerful motivating force of all.