Mental Toughness and the Role Motivation Plays

Motivation is about understanding the internal and external motivators that need to exist in order to keep ourselves focused, working hard and maintaining the commitment we need to get to where we want to go. Motivating ourselves and doing something because of our own internal drivers is important. It is necessary to be motivated for the simple pleasures and joys something offers or to simply develop and learn. These are great motivators, and a lot of the time they are the motivation I need to work on with clients because they have become more focused on external motivators, such as winning, getting approval, scholarships, and awards. There is nothing wrong with external motivators but they won’t provide the energy needed to sustain the work and will also usually lead to losing the fun and joy. The same is true for the internal motivators; it is extremely hard to keep the motivation going just because something is fun. The amount of effort getting to a high level of performance takes will usually not make the journey much fun at times, and so if that is your only motivator it can make it hard to move through the difficult moments.

So what is motivation? It is the source of ignition to supply the energy we need. More specifically, it works through flashes of images and emotions that allow us to tap into evolutionary neural programs that connect to the mind’s vast reserves of energy and attention. This means that the proper form of motivation connects to a level of energy and attention that far surpasses what we have at our disposal on a day-to-day basis and allows us to sustain everything we need to do over an extended period of time. Let’s look at a couple examples to help in understanding this.

A lot of the time motivation that seems internal in nature actually stems from an external source that simply taps into this evolutionary reserve of energy and attention, which then ignites the motivation for a person. Being the hockey player and fan that I am, the first example I want to provide is that of hockey goalies coming from Quebec, a province in Canada. Back in the 1980s, a goalie from Quebec, named Patrick Roy, came along and he became the best goalie in the NHL. Roy served as a role model for young hockey players from Quebec and ignited within them a passion for being a goalie rather than playing another position. It took a few years but there was a massive influx in talented Quebec goalies because of this. It didn’t sustain over a long period of time but it did for a specific generation who looked up to Roy. This is true for many other sports figures that have had major success. What you start seeing is, a few years later, a massive influx of players from that area.

This occurs because it creates a motivation and passion for a person on a very deep level and can ignite in a person the notion of, if they can do it, so can I. This is very powerful and leads into my second example. Before Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile people thought it was impossible, but as soon as he broke it, there was a flood of others who did as well. He represented a source of motivation that ignited others and sparked them to do the same as he did. His feat created a message to others: “You can do this too.” When we see others who we relate to accomplishing things, we see that it is possible, and it can provide the motivation needed to ignite the energy needed for us to accomplish it too. So the external trigger creates a strong internal spark that ignites the motivation needed.