Monday, 1 October 2012

Motivation, achievement and enjoyment

My course book on sport psychology is fascinating. It's like 600 pages packed with wisdom that applies not only when you have your race shoes on, but in life in general. 

Take the chapters on personality and motivation, for instance, and their effect on performance. According to the authors, you can either be a high or a low achiever. High achievers are better at focusing on the process, the road to their destination. They choose races where chances of them winning are 50/50, or they set goals that are attainable with effort. Low achievers, on the other hand, pick situations that are either too easy or too hard. They set goals that are either impossible to reach or sure to be reached. High achievers are motivated by pride and a desire to succeed, whereas low achievers are motivated by a wish to avoid failure and shame. Needless to say, a person that sets unrealistic goals (like winning a gold medal at the Olympics without having trained) or too easy goals (like competing in a race against less talented and less well-trained opponents) is not likely to develop as an athlete. Without risk, without testing your limits and dipping your feet in the water you're bound to stagnate.

I am a high-achiever when it comes to running. My goals are realistic, even if a bit on the cautious side. I know what I'm capable of and I run races according to that, challenging myself a little more each time. And, above all else, I have fun doing it. Running is such a pure source of enjoyment for me, because it's a free zone. I make my own rules. I set my own goals. And what motivates me is pride and happiness.

I was sad to find out that there are no online courses in Sport Psychology after this one. When I applied last spring, I saw it as a fun way to learn more about my passion, running. I wanted to find out how others deal with injuries, how they set their goals, how group training can help or hinder an athlete. Studying this wasn't just the means to an end. Studying was the end. But somewhere along the line people started asking me if I wanted to become a sport psychologist. And somewhere along the line I started considering it and thinking that it would be cool to help others reach their goals. Then I found out that there wouldn't be an online follow-up to this introductory course. I had built up my expectations so high that I was tremendously disappointed. In typical low-achiever style, I had put my hopes in a goal that was out of reach. And my motivation to keep studying this course went out the window.

Slowly I'm getting it back, because -in life as in running- I am a high achiever, or at least I'd like to think I am. Reading my very interesting course book, becoming richer in knowledge and enjoying the process of learning is the goal here. Remembering why I took the course in the first place: not to reach a distant, unattainable goal in the future but because it was fun, today.

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