We hear the word motivation a lot. I hear it everywhere. “It’s important to be motivated” they say. I am here to proclaim that motivation isn’t the key. I would say that motivation is a fleeting and flimsy feeling. Sometimes I wake up, put on a great song and feel motivated to conquer the world. Today will be awesome, let’s be great. And at times I may not feel like doing anything. Things may not go as planned, I feel depressed or unhappy about something. I don’t feel motivated. At those moments getting things done doesn’t feel easy, I just want to be in my own cave and left alone. I am not feeling motivated and without the motivation I am just not going to do anything. I can’t.
The problem with motivation is that it doesn’t have a strong foundation, deep roots. It’s based on a feeling that comes and sometimes goes. If the only way you are going to do anything of value is to do so while you are motivated, it’s almost impossible to be consistent. Motivation is rarely constant and consistency is the most important ingredient if we are to achieve anything of lasting value.
So what is the solution?
The solution is drive. Being driven means having a strong long-term goal. A deep desire to achieve something despite of anything in the way. The drive has to be as important as life itself. For those of us that are parents we are not always motivated to wake up at night to take care of a sick child, but we are driven to do it, because it is more important to us than anything else in the world. Motivation becomes a nice-to-have vs a must-have when you are driven.
I want to share a story to illustrate what I mean.
Israel Adesanya a UFC fighter fought a tough and skillful opponent Kelvin Gastelum. It was a back and forth battle with both athletes exhausted and hurt. Going into the fifth round neither fighter had a clear advantage. It was about who wanted it more. The two of the toughest human beings on the planet were facing each other, neither wanted to be on the losing end of the contest. Then those watching on their TV witnessed something unbelievable. Israel stared straight into Kelvin right before they were about to clash for the last 5 minutes of their fight and said: “I am prepared to die.” He meant every word. He ended up winning the fight and went on to become a legend in the sport and one of the highest paid athletes in the history of the UFC.
He was not motivated to give up his life in the sporting event, he was driven to become a champion at all costs. Being great was more important to him than his own life.
Young men and women striving to become Navy Seals are willing to go through hell, almost literally, to achieve their goal. Some of them losing their life in a process. Now some might say it doesn’t make sense. “Enjoy life”. However, what is the point of life with no clear direction? What is the meaning of spending time seeking avoidance of anything challenging and difficult? Looking back and thinking you could have achieved something if you just stayed with it is more painful than a 5th round of a UFC fight. It’s hard to appreciate rest, if you haven’t worked hard, it’s hard to appreciate sunshine if you haven’t felt the discomfort of a cold, rainy night.
So what does it have to do with running?
Let me tell you a little story. Through the majority of my life I hated running long distance and thought it was frankly stupid. It’s hard, it’s painful, it’s boring, it doesn’t make you look like Rambo. Why?
One day I took my kids to a 5K fundraiser run for their school. Not to run, just to watch and be around other parents and families from a local community. We even got a t-shirt in support of the runners. “Those crazy people that run.”
Something interesting happened that day. My older daughter, 5 at that time, said. “Dad look, these people they are finishing the race. They can run. May be someday you can run and you can get a medal, you can be a hero too.” My reply, was: “Nina, I can run, I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense to run, but I can do it, anybody can run.” She said: “Daddy that’s not true, not everybody can run for a long time, I have never seen you run for more than 1 minute.” All of the sudden I was extremely motivated. And said let me run a few laps and see. There was a baseball field with an unpaved path around it. I ran one lap and it was a kind of hard, but I felt I can do more. I ran two, three, four, five. At lap six I felt like I couldn’t run anymore, I wanted to stop more than anything I wanted to do in my life at that point. But then something inside of me said “I will do 10 laps or I will die trying” I have no idea why this thought came to my mind, but it was very powerful. After 10 laps I came to a stop. Completely exhausted, covered with sweat and dust, but I felt like I accomplished something, I overcame something inside of me. I ran for about 30 minutes non-stop and my kids were very proud.
The next day my legs were in so much pain that I could barely walk downstairs. But I told myself I will go and run as long as I can. And I did. For 3 miles. More pain the next day. Another 3 miles, this time harder than the very first time I ran. After 10 days of running I had no pain. I kept running.
Some days I hated it. I was cold, I was not motivated. But that gave me the reason to overcome something within me and still do it even if I didn’t want to. Putting on my shoes and getting out was always the hardest, but once I started running it was easier to keep running until I completed the distance I set out to do. Running became my way of exercising that muscle in my mind that told me to stop, relax, you have already done enough, you deserve a break. I run at very strange hours sometimes. Super early morning or after midnight, when everyone is asleep. I am not motivated at all. Sometimes I think I am crazy for doing it. Who runs at 1 AM? I am aways alone out there, just the street lights, trees, building, fences and an occasional wondering cat or deer, that’s about it. But I have a strange sense of pride for being the one who is driven to the point of doing something most people would consider crazy.
I often think of my life as a book or a movie. Would anybody want to read a book about me, would people be interested in it, be motivated by it? A story about a person, who often gets depressed or demotivated and decides to eat a pound of ice cream and binge watch a bunch of Netflix shows isn’t nearly as interesting as someone who puts on his shoes and gets out of the house at 12:25 AM and runs for 2 hours just to prove a point. To tell the weak side of himself in the mirror, not today, you may win over me one day, but it won’t be today.
I apply that principle to most things in life. It makes no difference if I am motivated or not. I am driven and I will do what it takes. It makes for a more interesting story, I think.