By Anna Mitchell

Motivation is the drive that gets us where we want to go. It helps push us through the rough patches when we would rather give up on our quest to achieve our goals, but it can be rather elusive and may escape us when we need it most.

Why do we feel more motivated at times than others? Perhaps more importantly, how do we find it when we are dragging our feet and feeling weary from the battles of competition?

First, it’s important to note that there are different types of motivation. We can be either extrinsically or intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources such as rewards and recognition. Promises of fame and glory through money and titles are often powerful motivators to get us involved; however, they are not always enough to keep us involved. To get you through the grueling perseverance it takes to be the best at what you do, you will need to dig deep, and your strength will come from within. Intrinsic motivation makes your quest a personal journey.

When you are intrinsically motivated, you strive to be the best you can be to prove something to yourself, not to someone else. The satisfaction that comes from exceeding your own expectations will pull you out of bed every morning to brave the elements when even the promise of a big, fat check may not be enough to stop you hitting the snooze button. Think about why you are doing what you are doing. Who are you doing this for? We all have days when we feel like we’ve been kicked enough and we want out. If you are not doing this for yourself and for the  love of the sport, those down days are going to get a whole lot harder to fight.

It is also worth noting that there are different motivational stages that we may experience during the course of our participation in a sport or project. To determine what may be affecting your motivation levels, it is important to identify what stage you are in. This will give you a better understanding of why you may be struggling to find the passion you felt a few weeks ago.

There are four phases that you can expect to experience anytime you take on a new project or sport:
-1) The Sign-up phase: This is the initial phase when you are first starting out. During this phase you are often highly motivated by the excitement of taking on something new. Feeling good about yourself for making a commitment. The thing to be aware of in this phase is not to get too carried away with the excitement and commit beyond your means. This can have serious consequences for your long-term motivation. Do you remember how excited you were when you bought your first cutting horse? Then deciding it was so much fun that everyone in the family had to have one, even Great Aunt Joan (who has never been on a horse). Better yet, let’s all get 3-year-olds and show at the Futurity this year. What fun! Once this wears off (and generally it will) you move into the next phase.

-2) The Persevere phase: This is when the novelty wears off and the hard work (and often financial strain) becomes apparent. It is during this phase that the majority of dropouts occur. You can avoid this by being prepared. Be aware if you find yourself starting to make excuses for not participating. This often occurs on a subconscious level, so pay attention. Making regular entries in your Training Journal enables you to identify patterns of self-defeating behavior. This will also allow you to reflect back upon successes and achievements to give you the motivation you need to press through this phase.

-3) The Sustain  phase: This is the period that follows when you realize you’ve got what it takes to get through the tough times. You will often experience a strong sense of self-accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that you persevered through times when you would have rather walked away. During this phase, you will find that both your motivation and confidence levels have increased and are easier to sustain.

-4) The Internalization Phase: This is achieved when your actions become internalized. Your new sport or project ceases to be something that you do and becomes part of who you are. During this phase, you will often experience fluctuations of motivation depending on various circumstances. For example, low motivation is often associated with performance slumps or during times of illness/injury. High motivation may follow a series of successes or the purchase of a new horse.

Now think about these phases in relation to your sport and work out what phase you are in. This will help you prepare for irregularities in your motivation levels.

Our best weapon against adversity is awareness. Learn about yourself. Know why you feel good or bad, happy or sad. Learn how you respond to various situations so you know what to expect and can prepare yourself. Learn what motivates you and when so you can draw upon that knowledge when you feel like giving up.

What motivates you to compete? What is it that drives you to the barn every chance you get?

Give Yourself Every Opportunity to Succeed by Anna Mitchell