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What Motivates You? Part I

I heard a phrase a while back that has since stuck with me: “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.”

When things are going well, it is easy to get up every morning and compete, but what happens when you do not feel good? How are you going to accomplish your daily tasks? How do you avoid hitting the snooze button at 5 a.m. so you can run three miles like you said you would?

This is where motivation becomes an important factor. Part of what keeps us going is not only understanding why we do what we do but understanding the motivations behind what we do. Discovering your motivation can help you push through those mental barriers and instill a feeling of accomplishment.

Motivation can be defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. In essence, it is the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. There are two different types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to ones’ participation for the pure enjoyment of the activity. For example, it might be getting up at 5 a.m. to go on a run because of the euphoric feeling you experience.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to ones’ participation for the rewards of the activity. For example, choosing to stay late at work to receive recognition from your superiors.

It is essential to understand your motivation because it enhances your focus and directs your attention to the task at hand. Your motivation helps you see the bigger picture of your daily tasks because it shows that your efforts are building towards something greater.

When you are faced with adversity, your motivation will reemphasize why you do what you do and ultimately help you push through to the end. Life will always present you with challenges, and you are going to make mistakes. Your motivational factors are what is going to help you handle these moments more effectively and with a clearer perspective.

Finally, it can increase overall well-being. A 2015 study about high-performance coaches found a negative relationship between self-determined motivation and burnout. The more you do things for yourself, the enjoyment of whatever you are participating in decreases the likelihood of reaching that burnout stage.

The coaches in this study consistently worked with elite athletes. During this time, these coaches would typically work long, irregular hours, burdened by a heavy travel load, short contracts and low job security—all of these factors attributed to the conditions that are believed to increase the risk or burnout.

Being a part of a daily grind like the coaches in this study can have damaging emotional effects on the human body. Your stress levels increase, you become more mentally and physically exhausted, all of which can decrease your motivation. You have to truly enjoy the grind, embrace the struggle, and understand your motivation to manage these types of demands successfully.


Understanding my motivation has had a significant impact on my life. I have told and retold the story of my high school basketball playing days, when I was voted most inspirational twice, but viewed the award negatively. Frequent readers will also be familiar with how my graduate school experience helped me realize that I am someone who wants to motivate, inspire and care for a younger generation.

Over the past few years, I have made some decisions that have significantly impacted my financial situation, in which, to this day, I find myself in an extremely tough spot. In April of 2019, I decided to leave my real estate job, that, contrary to popular belief, actually paid very little, to work as a Staffing Associate for a temp agency. I had worked at the real estate company for close to five years. It was easy work, and fit in great with my graduate school schedule, but as time went on, I noticed myself spending more and more of my time on-the-clock stressed out, irritated that I was wasting away valuable time.

During this time, I realized a few things: first, I did not want to spend the first six hours of my day in this negative mental state anymore. Second, I felt comfortable where I was. Not the good kind of comfortable where you are sitting on your back porch in beautiful 75-degree weather with a nice glass of Nebbiolo in your hand, but the type of comfortable in which you do not want to experience change due to the unknown.

I was so accustomed to this role and this life that I was too afraid to find a better situation. Once these two things really hit me, I decided to take control of my life and seek other employment opportunities. My salary doubled at this new employer, which was nice, but after about four months, I realized that I had no passion for what I was doing. First, I was working in the Accounting and Finance division, which I knew nothing about, so creating or finding individual work in that field was not interesting to me. Second, I have never once considered myself a “salesman”, especially in an industry that did not satisfy my need for motivation. I was not good at what I was doing, nor did I care, because it was not something that inspired me. Therefore, after six months, I knew it was time to find employment elsewhere.

Professional Guidance

Flash forward to the start of 2020. I had a conversation with a colleague of mine in the Sport Psychology field, who works with a lot of NBA players, ask me, “What are you passionate about? What do you like to do?”

These were questions the handful of temp agencies I reached out to asked me and my answer was the same: coaching and consulting. I said I wanted to coach athletes to help them improve their on-court skill set and off-court well-being. I wanted to work with athletes on their mentality and to give them the confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. My colleague plainly said, “Then you gotta do it!” He was right. I made the commitment that day to focus my motivation on what made me happy, and that was helping a younger generation improve both on and off the court.

Before, I was only motivated to pay my monthly bills. I had lost sight of my true passion. However, once I rediscovered what inspired me, I felt an enormous weight lift off my back, even though my financial situation stayed the same.

Your Mission

One aspect of understanding your motivation is coming up with a mission statement. Any business, organization, or professional team has a mission statement that includes their purpose, goals and values. We can use this same concept and apply it to ourselves. First, you want to ask yourself a series of questions to get your mind thinking.

What are you passionate about?

Why do you get up every morning?

What legacy do you want to leave?

How do you want to be remembered?

Take into account feelings, people, words, images and thoughts that may answer these questions. Once you complete this step, ask yourself a couple follow up questions.

Which ones were the most important?

Which answers stood out?

Take the most meaningful concepts from those questions to help begin the process of creating your mission statement. It is important to understand that mission statements can take a while to craft, and it can be difficult to narrow down what you are passionate about in one or two sentences. Therefore, if you cannot think of anything right away, then that is okay! You do not want this to be forced, and you want it to be meaningful, so do not hesitate to take your time on coming up with this statement.

There are many ways to stay motivated, and I am sure a lot of us have had that one individual who we can always count on to push us through to the other side, but if that person is not there, you have to find ways to self-motivate. Understanding your motivation and why you participate in the activities you do makes even the mundane tasks enjoyable. Understanding your motivation gives you purpose and can help you through those tough times. My challenge to you is to find out what motivates you! Ask yourself why you do things, why you compete, why you participate, why you want what you want, who you are, etc. and watch your activities, your everyday life and your mental well-being improve.


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