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Three Ways to Improve Motivation

Three Ways to Improve Motivation

I recently polled 20 NCAA coaches from a variety of sports and asked:

"Which skill/s separate good players from great players?"

The three most common answers were... 

#1 - ability to maintain a high level of motivation

#2 - ability to rebound and recover from mistakes

#3 - having confidence and belief in ones abilities

Struggles with motivation are common and represent both a challenge and opportunity. The following blog offers 3 methods to improve your motivation.

1. Rediscover your "Why"

"The desire must come from within, not as a result of being driven by coaches or parents." ~Dawn Fraser

One's purpose is at the core of motivation, but this can be overwhelmed by distractions. If you are struggling with motivation, spend time thinking about your "Why":

  • Why do you play?
  • Why did you fall in love with the sport/activity to begin with?
  • What about your sport/activity do you find enjoyable?

It might seem simplistic, but sometimes taking a moment to reflect on why you perform in the first place is a good starting point. 

2. Identify your motivational barriers.

"Setting goals is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving them, and then staying with that plan." ~Tom Landry

Everyone has motivational barriers that influence attitude, effort, and passion. For instance, perfectionism and being too outcome-focused are often enemies of motivation. Consider the following: 

  • What are your intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation?
  • What has motivated you in the past? How is your experience different now than before?
  • Do you have clear goals? If so, are they realistic and relevant? Are they meaningful?

3. Focus on what you can gain, not lose (role of goals)

"All that we do is done with an eye to something else." ~Aristotle

Most of the athletes and teams I have worked with over the years who have motivational challenges often lose sight of their pathway towards a positive outcome. For instance, a year after winning the conference title, a DI team started the season 0-3 and had problems with communication, team chemistry, and motivation. While the team had a clear goal in mind (repeat as conference champs), the process goals were being overlooked. Instead, the team was focused more on protecting what they already had (reputation, defending champs), rather than how they could be even better this upcoming season. In short, they were primarily focused on what they could lose, rather than what they could gain.

  • What are your performance goals (tactical, emotional)? 
  • What are your process goals (technical, mental)?
  • How can you be more consistent in your effort/attitude/motivation?

Speaking of motivation...  

Part of the motivation behind this blog post came from the record-breaking, come-from-behind victory by Drexel over Delaware earlier this year. Drexel erased a 34-point deficit to win the game. This got me thinking, "How do teams and athletes find the will and motivation to keep fighting when things are not going well?" Notice the attitude and mindset of the Drexel players and coaching staff.

Here are a few memorable quotes about the game:

"We saw fans leaving the arena at halftime. That didn't sit very well with us and we used that as motivation." - Drexel player

"Our approach at halftime was, let's make it happen. Look, this has a chance to be the craziest comeback, a perfect storm. We turned it over, we came out soft. The opposite happened in the second half."

"I told them, just get a stop, there's no 30-point shot, 20-point shot, 15-point shot. Let's just be poised here. We turned up the tempo, made it more full-court. Let's make it a crazy game." - Drexel head coach

"We just kind of got complacent, not moving, trying to go one-on-one, not playing team basketball and they were playing team ball, moving it and getting open shots." - Delaware head coach

My primary takeaways from this game:

  • A really bad loss turned into a HISTORICAL WIN. It is EASY to give up--it is HARD to keep fighting. Which path do you want? 
  • Your attitude about the situation ultimately dictates your intensity/effort.
  • What is the best way to lose? - By laying it all on the line and trying everything you can to solve the problem.
  • Being down and coming back represents an opportunity to do something special and build confidence.
  • When ahead, refocus on the little things (communication, being positive, execution) and keep your thoughts from drifting to the future.

Here is the link to the article if you want to check it out.


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