Motivation Through Others

Strictly speaking, all motivation is self-motivation. Nobody “makes” you do something. Intrinsic motivation is that which comes from within us – such as good feelings, sense of satisfaction, and sense of mastery or control. Extrinsic motivation is triggered by things external to us – such as awards, compliments, applause and comments from others or inspiration from role models.

If you run because you enjoy the sense of freedom and improvement or enjoy getting another t-shirt to note your accomplishment or to run with friends or to hear that “you look great” comment; the end result can be the same. That is, you can run fast or slow, long or short and the results are not contingent on where or how you got motivated. The truth is we are rarely motivated solely either intrinsically or extrinsically. Human motivation is far more complex. We are usually motivated by multiple aspects of the activity and so our motivation may be contingent on running further or faster, socializing or competing, traveling to races, post-race activities, a sense of freedom and control.

So, here’s the point. Most everyone feels un-motivated from time to time. If you know exactly what motivates you, you can then create environments which allow you to thrive and be “motivated”. It also helps you understand what might be going on that got you suddenly “unmotivated”. For instance, if you thrive on the social element of running with others and “life” gets you so busy you begin running alone all the time; then you might find yourself over time feeling unmotivated about your runs. Or, if you enjoy testing yourself (like in competition) and you haven’t been racing or haven’t focused on a future race; then you may wonder why you’re losing that passion for getting out and running.

Be aware that it is normal for motivation (as well as motivators) to change over time as well. Perhaps you start with mastery and the resultant self-confidence, or belongingness to a team as a young high-school runner. Then you revel in the excitement of competition, recognition and awards stimulate you most. Maybe it becomes an avenue for travel which you’ve always wanted to do. Further on, you get a sense of accomplishment in going further and faster than you ever imagined. Later, your motivation transitions to sharing all you’ve learned and contributing, and the social element with side-benefits of positive health affects on an aging body.

In times of need; in times of slumps; in times of feelings of loss, we can look to others for motivation. Some of us look a coach yelling at us or a special word by a motivational speaker. And sometimes we take an unspoken motivational message from a unique life situation or event.

We have all complained one time or another about how we don’t “feel” like running or don’t “feel” motivated to do a workout. (I’m guilty.) Perhaps, if we knew about what others from our own club deal with it might put a different light on that bad day and maybe even be a source of motivation. Did you know we have multiple cancer survivors and current cancer fighters on our club? Did you know we have victims of a heart attack, traumatic physical assaults, diabetics, tumors, asthmatics, osteoporosis sufferers; knee-shoulder surgery survivors and even a hip replacement? Do not confuse them with their ailments. They persist. They do not want sympathy. Their own motivations may vary. In the end, like you and I…  they just want to run.

Whether they think so or not, they are role models. It does not matter that they are fast or slow, running marathons or trying to maintain physical condition and weight. They role model persistence, commitment and barrier busting. They are a continuous source of motivation for me.

The message is that from time to time we need to seek out motivators. The next time we want to complain about the heat, the cold, the workout or the course, perhaps… just perhaps, think about those who are thankful to just run again; and those who are sidelined and only wish they could do so again. Even if just for today you don’t want to run for yourself, run with inspiration from those who have fought so hard to run again and run for those who can’t. Don’t take your “gift” for granted. to paraphrase Steve Prefontaine, don’t waste your gift.

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