Reading this article is not going to be a very pleasant ride for most of you. So, I'll apologize at the onset. But if you make it through, I'll also expect a, "Thank you, I needed that," at the end. This discussion gets to the very heart of your motivation.
The question I have for you is, "Why?" This question can apply to absolutely everything, but for the sake of argument, let's contain it better by asking, "Why do you train with weights? What is your motivation for doing it?" This is not a semantic, throw-away question. It is as serious as a heart attack. I mean it. I would say it is the most important question, but I don't want to explain that nor defend it. So I will lighten the mood by saying that it's a VERY, VERY IMPORTANT question.
And you should be forewarned! I will not be distracted or easily contented with the standard array of bullshit that passes in most civilized social circles for the "truth" or an "adequate" answer. I know bullshit when I smell it. And by and large, people avoid tough questions like this by throwing out the rehearsed, acceptable kinds of answers that serve no purpose other than to END THE DISCUSSION! None of that, please! Let's be genuine for a change! Why do you really do it? Let's try to define your true motivation.
I will give you an example of the trivial response scenario. If someone asks a young man, "What do you want in life?" one of the stock bullshit answers is for him to say something like, "I want to go to college at XYZ University." Then the scripted response to that is, "Well, that's wonderful, son!" Then maybe a lame, "Good for you!" or even a "What will you study?" But only if the person asking is a close enough relative or family friend to be under obligation to ask a SECOND f*cking follow up question. More likely than not, the conversation about some kid's hopes and dreams and what he really wants in life is wholly satisfied by the announcement that he's perhaps considering a college degree. That ENDS the questions right there most of the time. That weak response is designed and agreed upon in our busy society to end the questions and let us get on with our day without explaining ANYTHING.
That is as far as the thing goes. It is a non-answer that has become the response which tells a person that this whole hopes-dreams-desires-happiness investigation is OVER! It is just the social contract to release everybody from anything meaningful between each other. It is similar to asking someone how they are doing without wanting to hear any answer that differs from, "Fine, thanks." What would somebody do if you told them the real ups and downs of your life challenges at the moment? HA! The look on their face would be a treat! Nobody wants to hear that!
The real question that nobody dares to ask is, "WHY?" WHY do you want a diploma from the local higher ed. school? IF, and that is a very big and rare IF, you were brazen enough to ask this follow up, the scampering away from the truth and into non-descriptive bullshitting is likely to continue. You might get, "Well, of course, because I want to get a good job!"
This is commonly said incredulously as if the answer SHOULD not be necessary and is axiomatic. It is often accompanied by quizzical looks or a snide emphasis on the "of course" part. But again, this tells us NOTHING. So, we are forced to ask the follow up to that non-answer bullshit pile by asking, "Well, why do you want a good job?" At this point in the attempt to be "real" with someone, they start to feel weird. They almost snap back at you with a retort like, "To make Big Money!" or "To buy a nice house!" An almost angry, "For the same reason everybody does!" would not be unusual. They can't believe this is even still going on. You are SUPPOSED to let them off the hook by now and not expect nor demand a straight answer that is any more substantial. But we are no further from where we started. Our social norms forbid depth and honesty of this magnitude. They haven't explained why they want the money a degree will bring.
So you ask, "Why do you want so much money? What will you do with all that money? Why do you want a big house?" They try to squirm away by replies like, "To have a family," or some EVEN MORE NONSENSICAL NONSENSE. You should be able to predict what comes next by now, right? "Why a family?" Or a real kicker, "Do you really want________?" In the blank you can put a family, a house, a degree, a promotion, a new car, new clothes, a new hairstyle, a vacation in the Bahamas, a diamond ring, a new phone, and on and on and on through mile after mile of pure BULLSHIT. Oh, how familiar we are with the answers that we are taught that we are SUPPOSED to want!
I don't want you to tell me what you are supposed to. I want you to tell me something real about yourself. Otherwise, I wouldn't have asked. That is where we want to go—past the armor and safety of social limitations.
So I'm asking, "WHY?" And I'm asking over and over.
This is no joke. It's not the same as when a two-year-old asks why incessantly. That is a game. This is about your MOTIVES and your GOALS. None of those well-known and pat answers will answer ANYTHING. We must move beyond the superficial, socially scripted answers.
Here's the deal: IF YOU CAN'T GET TO AN ANSWER THAT IS 1. EMOTIONAL, 2. PERSONAL AND PERTAINS ONLY TO YOU AND NOBODY ELSE, AND 3. COMPLETELY ON THE INSIDE WHERE IT CAN NOT BE SEEN, THEN IT IS NOT WHY.
Remember, I said this: The only REAL WHYS are personal, emotional, and inside.
That's where the bullshit stops, and you get to the heart of things. You must be willing to get to the deep motivations you have. All the others are superficial, and they are WEAK! The motivations that will keep you pressing on to your goals are the ones we want to identify and build. This is not easy to reach. So we have to keep asking why until it gets personal, emotional, and private.
Now we can get on with it...
I am encouraging you to go deep into why it is that you train. This is important because it will not only teach you something about yourself (and self-discovery is its own reward), but it will give you insight into how to best motivate yourself. In any endeavor, the difficulty of the task and the need for motivation go up hand in hand. The higher you climb, the tougher things will get. It is at this time that many people who are unsure why they are doing something (and I mean the personal, emotional, and inner why) give up. Now it becomes absolutely critical. They that struggle are not in touch with their deep motives. So when it really sucks to keep going, they don't.
Did you ever wonder how some people can go out like gangbusters only to peter out somewhere along the way to their goals and never truly get there? I believe that often they come to a crossroads where the cost gets dearer, and the effort gets higher. If someone is wishy-washy about exactly why they are working so very hard at some goal, they begin to ask if it is worth it or not. IF YOU CAN'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION IN THE MOMENT THAT IT COUNTS MOST, I'LL BET YOU DECIDE TO QUIT. This is where quitting on yourself comes from. Lack of deep motivation. You MUST know why.
I've seen it too many times to wonder about it. Those people have not searched their motives, their personal whys deeply and clearly enough to keep up the fight. There was a quote from some old Kung-Fu movie I saw when I was a kid just learning about tenacity and resolve. It stuck with me. Paraphrasing, it went something like this: "Your desire does not have the will to sustain it." It was meant to insult an opponent, telling them that they will quit, and that they don't have enough of what it takes. I will re-vamp it for this application: Your desire does not have the WHY to sustain it.
The idea is that achieving big things will get tough and begin to ask more and more from you. At each successive level that you climb, the Gods demand more. If you have not clarified your desire and built your willpower around it on each step up, at some point you run out. That's hard to do if you don't know why you are doing it.
I believe that an excellent way to build your will around your desires is to clarify WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU! Meaning, ask why you want to do it. When you know what you EXACTLY stand to gain, personally, emotionally, and privately, you can follow the motivational cues that foster that desire. If you don't know why you want something, as soon as it gets hard, you'll quit like the rest. If the only answers you can muster up are superficial, external, and have to do with other people, you don't have good answers. Your desire (the thing that powers what you want) won't have the will to sustain it.
Don't buy in? OK. Think about something you quit on. Ask why you quit. Be just as ruthless and honest about it as you can. Odds are you don't really have a good answer. You can't say why, you just quit. I propose that you didn't REALLY want it. This is because we don't quit on things we REALLY WANT. Don't buy that? OK. Ask when was the last time you REALLY wanted something and put your mind to it and DIDN'T GET IT? Odds are that is never. You probably got it if you really set your mind on it. See?
So here is the real problem. We SAY we want things we really don't.
Once again: We SAY we want things we really don't.
This happens to people WHO DON'T KNOW THEMSELVES VERY WELL. This technique of asking yourself why about stuff you do will TEACH you about yourself. Then it will become less likely that you fall into that trap again. You choose goals that actually align with your heart. Not goals that you are "supposed" to want.
So, why are you lifting?
If you are not one of my athletes, you won't have to run the gauntlet with me breathing fire down your neck for truthful answers defining your whys. But you should go as far as you are comfortable going, then go a little farther!
Let's run a hypothetical. I ask, "Why do you lift?" and you say some bullshit like, "Because I want to be muscular." So I say, "Why do you want muscles?" You say," Because it will get me attention from girls." So I say, "Why do you need more attention from girls?"
You say, "I want to get laid." And I say "Why do you want that?" and on and on until finally, finally you say, "Because I want validation that I am attractive to women and that people like me. It will boost my self-esteem and give me confidence. My father never showed me too much interest because he made me feel weak and poorly developed in a "manly" way. I want to prove to myself and to him in some way that I am worthy."
Ouch. OK, but now we are getting down to true motivation! Emotional, personal, and private.
I have purposefully over-dramatized that exchange into a joke (for some), but in the end, we see in it an answer that is acceptable, informative, and honest. When you get here, you do not have to judge your why as being good or bad, right or wrong. You just have to accept it and USE it to motivate you. NO JUDGEMENT. I think this aversion to finding something unsavory (by one's judgment) is what keeps lots of people from doing this kind of inner work. They don't want to look inside because they don't want to find anything they won't like. Well, there is no reason to be afraid! If you find something you don't like, you can change it. If you find something you dig, you can build it. You are not stuck with anything you don't want to keep.
There is nothing to fear.
If you suspend judgment, you can understand yourself and your motives for wanting and doing something in a way that is impossible otherwise. You just have to know your motives. You don't have to judge them. There are no "wrong" or "right" reasons for wanting something.
We are discussing a fundamental concept here. The drive behind your life activities. This is no small thing! If you are bored or disinterested in this topic, I'm afraid you probably won't get very far in life. This is quintessential. The fact of the matter is that if you would accomplish little, you must sacrifice little. We can rephrase that around in lots of meaningful ways. But at the core of it lies the undeniable truth that greater accomplishments cost more. They are harder to get for all of us.
As you go through life, each new achievement in the same arena gets more difficult. If you lack motivation, at some point, the cost outweighs your drive for it. What then? How will you convince yourself to add more motivation and stick with the goal or plan when it begins to cost you more than you bargained for? For most people, this is the place they leave it. They abandon their goals unrealized. Will that happen to you?
I don't know. But I know that one thing that can protect against it is knowing why you are trying so damn hard and sacrificing so very much just to get to some achievement you'd set for yourself. If you have a personal, deep, private, meaningful, emotional REASON that you can always point yourself to when asked why then I will never bet against you.
I advise you to get to work on this pronto. It takes days, if not weeks, to reach the appropriate depth and honesty with yourself. I know. I tried to fool myself and give the stock pat answers all too frequently. Just liking something doesn't tell you why you like it. Just because you have wanted something ever since you were a child does not explain the genesis of the desire; it merely defines when it began. We tell ourselves little lies all the time to cope. You must get past that superficiality if you want the power of your desires to fuel your will.
If you get to a reasonable place with this you will be relatively invincible in your pursuit of excellence and your goals. It matters that much. By no means is it required to achieve something. But there are easy ways and hard ways to do everything. The hard way is to stumble your way to success. The easy way is to supercharge your willpower by defining why it is that you want what you want. You will run full speed toward it then. KNOW YOUR REASONS.
Ask why you are doing what you do. Then ask why the justification for that is meaningful to you. Ask why of that answer. Then ask why of that answer. And on and on UNTIL you get to an EMOTIONAL, INNER REASON. The others may be true, but the one with all the power behind it is emotional and private. That's the one you want to discover.
This tiny article barely scratches the surface of this technique. One book I read about it was titled The Seven Whys, or something close to that. But the concept is simple. Just keep asking yourself why you want something until you hit a nerve where the answer is personal, private, and emotional. That's all you have to do. It is that powerful of a technique.
I consider this a will-building exercise. If you could use a bigger dose of willpower in your world, this is one way to get it that has lots of side benefits.
It is VERY uncomfortable at first. You lie to yourself a lot. But if you refuse to judge and get honest with yourself, it becomes familiar and less daunting. You can repeat it for the rest of your life and benefit from what it teaches you about yourself.
I AM NOT a psychotherapist and this is not self-help. This is a real plain, powerful way to build willpower to use in sports. The other benefits are side effects. And they are great.
Winning comes from inside. All the real, lasting rewards from sports are the ones that nobody else can see. It only makes common sense to START HERE.
The honest truth about the really big goals in life is that they come to only a few. There are many sacrifices and lots of hard work required. I can attest to the fact that when things get extremely difficult, the thought of quitting crosses everyone's mind. If you have good reasons not to quit, the commitment to go on is closer at hand. If you persist long enough in your journey, you will have a day that tests you and begs you to quit. Whether you do or don't, you will think about reading this article. My money is on you if you have done the work of looking hard at your why and determining the reason to continue.