Tuesday, January 8, 2008
What constitutes the motivation to achieve? I pondered this recently as I was watching a program on the National Geographic Channel the other night about child prodigies. They described these children as having the “rage to achieve”. They find themselves talented in something then pour all their time and energy into becoming even better at that task and reach even a higher level. This kind of motivation is internal. You can’t teach it. You can’t reward it. It has to come from within the soul.
I thought about this as I watched my daughter Paige swim this weekend. She is a good age group swimmer with excellent stroke technique but she doesn’t seem to be able to push herself to hurt in a race. She gets out of the pool nonwinded and carefree. She goes through the motions but the motivation to achieve just isn’t there. However this weekend she was a bit miffed about getting kicked in the face by another girl in practice previously in the week. I guess she made up her mind she was going to beat that girl. As her sister and I watched from the stands we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Paige was pushing her limits and came back from 3 body lengths down in the last 50 of two races only to get out touched at the wall by half a second by the faster girl she wanted to beat. On route she shattered her previous times in those events. It wasn’t exactly a rage to achieve but there was a component of rage in there.
Motivation from within is a powerful thing. I don’t push my kids. I want them to want to do well without having to try to please me. I want them to be self motivated. I noticed that the faster girl was getting paid cash money from her parents for her performance. I’m not a psychologist but I seem to think in the long run this method of motivation will backfire somewhere down the line.
My wife, Dana, is another example. There isn’t a more hardworking mother, triathlete out there. Last week she rode 70 miles in a toe and hand numbing 20 degrees. To me that is motivation. I can’t motivate myself to get out and do that. She has so many other irons in the fire too. Taking kids to activities and next weekend she is taking Payton to a gymnastics meet in Salt Lake City. We have had a swim meet or gymnastics meet every weekend. It’s just so difficult to stay motivated and keep focused with all of the other activites and things going on with the kids, the family, and the house. She has Ironman Brazil coming up in a few months.
I have started coaching athletes this year. Matt Carnal is one of my clients that I wrote about in a previous entry. I suppose I should update his progress regarding his debut marathon performance. Matt ran a gutsy race despite dealing with the emotional turmoil of breaking up with his girlfriend the week of the race, and he left his race nutrition in the car the morning of the race. It wasn’t exactly a way to start a key marathon.
I was in Oklahoma City at a kids swim meet and got a call telling me Matt was at mile 16 and looking good but was asking for gels on the course. I called Dana and she got some gel to him by mile 22 but by that time the damage was done. He bonked and finished in 3:08. The last 3 miles were pretty painful. It was a rookie mistake and one that he definitely learned from and won’t make again.
An unseasonably warm day last week allowed Matt and I to ride 130 miles. He hit a few bad patches but was able to climb out of them without giving up. He told me a story about setting a record doing wrist curls back in his baseball days. He was able to get into a zone where his wrists would go numb and he could just push through the pain and smashed the record that still stands. He told me his legs were starting to get numb now and then I thought to myself “I’m in trouble”. He proceeded to kick the pace up to 23-30 mph with 20 mph cross winds for an hour in the middle of the ride. All I could do was to hang onto his wheel. That effort hurt him later, but the motivation it took do that effort after he had dropped off the pace earlier in the ride is encouraging in his quest for Ironman. He didn’t give up.
The power of the mind and what it can do is often overlooked in sport. Having a powerful will and the ability to rebound form bad patches and keep moving forward despite adversity is important for success. An ordinary athlete can do extraordinary things with the right outlook and motivation.