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6 Ways to Light the Fire Inside You

Mary Lou Retton Blog

Legend has it that when 12-year-old Cassius Clay reported his beloved bicycle missing, he said he was going to give the thief a “whupping” when he found him. The police officer he reported the theft to ran a boxing gym and suggested he might want to learn to fight first. He never did find the perpetrator, but from that moment on, every time he got into the ring, the young fighter, who would go on to become Muhammad Ali, would look at the other boxer and tell himself that was the guy who stole his bicycle.

Athletes find motivation in a number of different ways but the most successful athletes are self-motivated and maintain a high level of motivation through setbacks, failure, injury, and a punishing work schedule. It’s difficult to specifically define what a high level of motivation is as motivation changes from person to person. And it’s not just the level but also the type of motivation that counts. However, in general if you want to be highly motivated or lead others to be highly motivated, the following 6 points are key:

Internal Motivation vs. External Motivation. Do you find yourself motivated by factors inside of yourself or factors outside of yourself? Which is the most effective for high performance? Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity to obtain an external reward such as money, status, trophies, or being on TV. Intrinsic motivation refers to performing an activity just for the enjoyment of it without considering receiving anything for taking part. Intrinsic motivation is associated with positive results including enhanced performance which means that high performance is usually achieved by focusing on the pride, satisfaction and enjoyment you get from participating, rather than external rewards. Look for the next post to find out how to increase your intrinsic motivation.

Self-determined. In order for you to develop a strong sense of intrinsic motivation, you must believe you have autonomy and that you are in control of your actions and your destiny. As a leader, provide positive feedback, foster a culture of agency, and create a supportive environment for your whole team in order to increase their self-determination.

Setting Goals. Identify goals and set strategies that will increase the likelihood of reaching your goals and, in turn enhance your motivation. For more tips on effective goal setting, read this post.

Commitment. Make sure you are highly committed to your goals. Long-term motivation depends on persistence, effort and resiliency in the face of obstacles and setbacks. To help increase your resiliency, read more in this post.

Approach vs. Avoidance. Think about the words you use in every day life. How many times do you say, “I should”, “I must”, or “I have to”. These words represent actions that result from fear or avoiding negative consequences. Think about where you use “I want”? These are the areas you are most likely to be successful in. Your motivation should be fueled by your desire for success and not your fear of failure.

Be positive. Always focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.

What drives you? What’s your mission? What are your goals? Find your passion and make it happen. Find your “wants” and be motivated by what you want to achieve, rather than your fear of failure. Light that fire inside of you and keep it burning.