A common question asked when I’m working with swimmers and their parents is how did you stay motivated all those years? Truth be known, I didn’t! There were numerous times when I was tired and felt like I had reached the point of walking away, particularly through the higher grades at school, when the workload of homework and assignments increased. Add into the mix social pressures from friends … it’s tough!
Prior to 15 years of age, I had a relatively smooth ride in terms of motivation. From starting my swimming journey at age 7 or 8, I only ever swam in the Summer season, from September/October through to March. In Winter I did other sports, so it kept things new and fresh for me and I didn’t get sick of the doing the same activity year-round. While my pie in the sky dream was to make an Australian team one day, I always had little stepping stones to strive for. Whether that was to break the pool record at my local primary school swim club, or to make the district, regional or eventually state team (in the school system), I always started each season knowing what I was training for. Any time I lost sight of that and drifted into a motivational abyss, it was simply a matter of refocusing and deciding whether those season goals were still important to me. Sometimes that was a self-reflective question, and during more challenging times, it was a question my mum would ask me.
As time passes, and your life situation changes, different challenges will show up that can cause a shift in your focus. It could be that you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere and your goals seem out of reach. It could be that you are just tired of the daily grind and need a break. Whatever the cause of the perceived lack of motivation, what matters beneath it all is that the goals still spark a fire within. If you find yourself questioning your continued involvement in whatever it is you are working towards, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
I quit swimming at the age of 18 when my life situation led me to a point where I could not attach any positives to continuing. I did not want to train, compete, achieve or do anything related to the sport. At that point, I pretty much said ‘I don’t care’ and walked away. Some would say I lost motivation completely. In reality, my motivation simply shifted focus; I was 100% motivated to quit and nothing was going to stop me!
The question is not ‘how do you maintain motivation’, but rather ‘how do you keep it directed toward your goals’. A big part of this is making sure your goals are your goals. It is very easy to take on the goals of other people, but for true success, they need to be goals you want for yourself. Aspirations that spark the fire inside of you. Dreams you are intimately connected with; that are your passion.
When I returned to my sport two years after quitting, I did so with a very strong, focused goal. I wanted to be the fastest breaststroker in the world. This was my goal and it belonged to me alone. Absolutely, there were moments where the strength of conviction faded and I questioned myself. In these times, I took a moment to reflect and ask myself those questions above, and each time it helped to redirect my motivation where it needed to be.
So, what is it you want? What are your goals? What are your reasons for chasing them? Whatever you choose to chase in life, make sure you are pursuing it because you want to and not because you have to.
Run for yourself, in the direction you choose, and you will never have a reason to look back!
If you’re looking for more strategies around the topic of motivation, be sure to check out Emma’s strategies to motivate yourself and achieve your goals! You can also hear more from Jade in this one-hour webinar on the topic of Get up and go! Why you need motivation in your life and how to get it!