“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
As stated by Dr. Victor Vroom in his expectancy theory of motivation: “it is not merely a specific goal, but the perception of the goal that motivates people.” Further, he states that motivational force depends on three factors:
1) Believe the effort is worth putting in. The belief that the effort put in to reach a goal will give them their desired outcome.
2) Perceived attractiveness of the goal. The more important the goal is to a person, the more likely it will be accomplished.
3) Perceived belief that the goal is attainable. The individual thinks that the effort is worth it.
Put succinctly, if the goal is appealing and the individual believes it can be obtained, the motivational force will be high. In contrast, if the goal is desirable, but the individual believes it can’t be done, the motivational force is low. Having a sincere belief that the behavior will lead to a certain outcome and that the effort is worth it will drive the motivational force up.
The first step is to identify what you would like to accomplish and what behaviors you need to do or stop doing to get there. It’s a huge perk of having frontal lobes, we get to bargain with the future by making sacrifices of time, physical energy, or mental energy to get where you want to go. It’s hard to get somewhere fast if you don’t know where you’re going. To quote George Lorimer in his book Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son: “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.”
When it is in your control and relevant, take measures to increase the positive perception of the goal. It takes work to keep the goal desirable. If we believe a behavior will have a beneficial impact, it probably will lead to positive outcomes. This is known as the placebo effect. Dr. Aliea Krum has done extensive research on the positive impacts on the placebo effect and states that if we improve the social context and mindset, the body’s natural ability can be an untapped source for health as soon as our minds are open to it. Also, according to Dr. Ted Kaptchcuck, the level of attention you give these details can improve the benefits. The context can change, but one thing is true: mindset matters.
Work to actively increase the belief that the goal is attainable. Break the ultimate goal into sub goals that are more achievable along the way and celebrate small successes. Surround yourself with people who have your best interest and believe that you can accomplish the task at hand. Coach Nick Saban tells his players, “Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.” In other words, it’s the accumulation of a lot of little goals that start to snowball over time to lead to big results.
Some Advice on Motivation
Track specific markers so you can see tangible improvement, pay close attention to your routines and rituals that you feel benefit your improvement. Remind yourself why the goal is important, write down why it matters to you and update as you go. Be ambitious, but keep in mind the goal has to be grounded between the margins of reality. Focus on one task at a time and make it a habit to put in your highest effort. For example, it may be the next swing, rep, throw, or kick, but making it a habit to get the most out of each step of the way can do a lot to staying motivated long term. Breaking large goals into micro goals will keep motivation sustainable. Initiate this to keep drive at a high level and it could make the difference in staying focused for the long term or fizzling out too soon.
Shaun has over 20 years of experience as a competitive athlete in the sports of football, wrestling, and CrossFit, and 10 years of strength coaching experience. He has helped athletes of all ages and levels of ability set goals and maintain focus throughout the process of achieving them. Click below to get started working with Shaun.