I am goal orientated. I love to stand at the bottom of the mountain, look up and start to climb. It is hard to get going and I might procrastinate for weeks or even months until I take the first step, knowing that when I do so I won’t stop until I am done. And generally, it is going to be hard work and probably hurt.
Four years ago I did the Nike app: Couch to 5K. It is an amazing audio program that literally takes you from zero to a 5k runner in 8 weeks. The 3x a week runs are cleverly constructed to incrementally build endurance and at least 3 times during a run a friendly voice tells you that ‘you’re awesome.’ It works. I am not a runner, I hate exercise and I would rather lie on my sofa, read a book and eat cheesecake than pretty much anything else. But this app works. Four years ago I ran 5K and it was one of the proudest moments of my life, especially because it was so hard and so out of character for me. But I loved it and I felt fantastic.
And then I stopped.
Now four years later I am doing it again. I am on week 7 and it is starting to get hard. Some days I doubt I will make it, yet I still pull on my trainers, plug in my airpods and go. I am being ‘awesome.’ My worry, this time, is what will happen when I am done? I should hit week 8 around July 1st and I am already thinking about how to keep motivated. Once I am at the top of this particular mountain, enjoy the view and the sense of achievement, how will I maintain? Maintenance is not sexy. Maintenance does not give me the ‘awesome’ thrills. And no, I have no interest in finding a new mountain, a 10K is off the table and running faster does not appeal to me. I will never run with people, join a race or want a ribbon. So how does motivation work?
Steven Kotler, author of The Art of the Impossible, states that we are all hard wired for peak performance and peak performance comes from the experience of flow: An optimal state of consciousness when we perform and feel our best. So how do we get into a state of flow? Motivation is key.
Motivation can be divided into two kinds: Motivation that is driven by inbuilt human attributes in order to pursue virtuousness, and extrinsic motivation that means pursuing an activity for an alternative, often a people pleasing outcome. Basically, are you doing it for internal or external reasons?
Extrinsic motivation is to get things we want in the world, for example: money, sex, fame, a great body. On the other hand intrinsic motivation is driven by curiosity, passion, purpose, autonomy and mastery. If you are driven by those things then you have flow. And you will keep going.
Are you doing it to avoid guilt? Because of pressure or anxiety? Fear? Vanity? Or are you doing it because the actions align with your life goals and core values? Finding your own autonomous reasons and your own intrinsic motivation will make it much easier to stick with things.
Start with making a list of reasons why you do something. How many of these reasons are extrinsic? Reflect on whether you can strive for an intrinsic reason. If you can find a reason why doing it will be just for you, you are more likely to keep it going.
I am running because it makes me feel strong, young and powerful. My hope is that I remember that after week 8 comes and goes.
Inquiry question: What do you want but haven’t found?
Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Words from the wise:
“All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing and improving. They do that by asking ‘why.’ After all, the person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job, but the person who knows ‘why’ will always be the boss.”Benjamin Franklin