People participate in their sport for a variety of reasons and it is fascinating to listen to athletes talk about their sport, up-coming contests and their goals - guaranteed just by listening, you will gain insight into that athletes motivation. I have had contact with athletes from varying disciplines including fighters, bodybuilders, strongmen, powerlifters and track athletes and it is intriguing to have discussions with fellow athletes about inner drive – what makes us do what you do? There is a lot of research on this subject matter and generally it is suggested that athletic motivation falls into the two major categories; intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Hatch, Thomsen and Waldron, in their article Extrinsic Rewards and Motivation (http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resource-center/coaches/articles/extrinsicrewards) suggest that intrinsically motivated athletes participate in sports for internal reasons, for example self improvement or enjoyment, whereas extrinsically motivated athletes participate for external reasons, such as material rewards. Extrinsic reasons for participation might include publicity, awards (winning) and cash prizes.
Hatch, Thomsen and Waldron, provide further definition to athletic motivation types;
Intrinsic Motivation - Intrinsically motivated athletes participate in sport for internal reasons, particularly pure enjoyment and satisfaction, and intrinsically motivated athletes typically concentrate on skill improvement and growth.
I am a classic example of an intrinsically motivated athlete. Every strong woman contest and powerlifting meet I have participated in, I have aimed only to beat previous personal records. prior to the Arnold Classic u150lbs world titles a trainer in the gym asked me if I was going to win. My response was I do not know, probably not but I WILL set personal records. His response to me was, don’t be so negative, where in-fact there was not any feeling of negativity attached to my response. All I ever hoped for was personal bests, now if they were not good enough to win, so be it. I knew I would have to train harder.
I was extremely hesitant with partnering with ANY sponsors for the simple reason that I did not want to feel external pressures to perform. I wanted FULL control of my participation in the sport, I did not want to feel pressured to do things I did not like such as training logs. I was foruntate enough to be approached by two AMAZING sponsors (Gen-Tec Nutrition and Mammoth Kitchen), who have given me SO much yet have only ever requested that I continue what I’m doing as an athlete. The only pressure I want to feel is from myself and my own goal of setting new personal records in each contest.
It has taken me some time to work out, but I am very clear on what drives me as a person and athlete, I am comfortable with this and am happiest when I remain true to this.
Extrinsic Motivation - Extrinsic motivation may come from social sources, such as not wanting to disappoint a parent (or coach), or material rewards (or sponsorships), such as trophies or cash prizes. Extrinsically motivated athletes tend to focus on the competitive or performance outcome.
So here enters my good friend and world campion u150lbs strong woman Alanna Casey (and trust me you’ll always know when this girl enters the room). Alanna is fiercely extrinsically motivated. She wants to win…simple! EVERYTHING! She wants to be the best and the strongest. she is vocal about this – in talking with Alanna there is no doubt that she wants that trophy and there are certain people she lines up to beat (EVERYONE).
There certainly was a time when overtly extrinsically motivated athletes used to irritate the life out of me. I found myself thinking “they’re so damn arrogant”, “they’re so shallow – just wanting a title”, “all they want is stuff – money, sponsorships”. Similarily I KNOW my attitude could irritate someone like Alanna – questions such as “why does she not just want to win?” “is competition not about wanting the win?” “she needs to want to be the best too!”
This conversation between Alanna and I recently, is a classic example of our motivation types;
Alanna “I just want you to think that and believe that you are the best”
Me “I just want to move heavy stuff in sparkly shorts – the whole best thing, I can take it or leave it!”
Of course nothing in life is as black and white as the above - individuals have their own unique circumstances or situations that provide the drive they need to reach their goals. An individual may be predominantly intrinsically motivated but at times extrinsically motivated. I often find myself thinking – I want to do Gen-Tec and Mammoth Kitchen proud. I don’t want to disappoint my sponsors. Another example, overt “haters” or doubters of my ability on occasions provide the motivation I need to drive me to a new personal best.
The real win for me (as an intrinsically motivated athlete) will always be reaching new heights (personally) and setting new personal bests in my lifts or events. Whereas for Alanna it will be winning the medal or beating that person that she set’s out to beat (all of us ;-) )
Ultimately to feel totally satisfied with your performance and remain free of others expectations, it is critical for an athlete to have the awareness of what drives them and it is a real skill to remain 100% focused and true to our own game, rather than focusing on others, becoming frustrated by their game and loosing sight of WHY we are doing what we do.
Whatever you are doing in this moment, ensure that you are 100% present and focused on this task. Because this moment is where you find life’s meaning and the purpose of your existence, this moment is where the learning happens and this moment is where you will evolve into a better version of you ~ Me (with thanks to Jill Mills for the “talking to” in Columbus, 2013 Arnold Classic – Love you Jill)