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If there are three words every coach would like to use to describe their athletes, motivated, focused, and committed would be near the top.
The problem is that it’s hard to get people to actually display these characteristics. It’s an area of performance that most coaches simply don’t know how to address.
Despite popular belief, motivation doesn’t have to be just some “feeling.”
There is a way to help your athletes be consistently focused and committed to clear goals so they sustain the motivation to achieve them.
I guarantee you this, though: it will NOT happen by accident. You have to train these skills intentionally and consistently, just like you do with the physical side of performance.
Sending your client a motivational video on YouTube or slapping a poster with a quote about “focus” on a locker room wall isn’t the answer.
So today, I’m going to share how you can crack the motivation code and help those you work with be consistently focused and committed.
What brushing your teeth can teach you about motivation
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to motivation is thinking it’s one of those things you only need once in a while.
Swipe through instagram, see a motivational quote plastered on a picture of The Rock doing squats, and you’re good to go for a while, right?
Things like quotes, YouTube videos, and motivational speakers are good strategies for short-term motivation, but it takes more than that to stay focused, and committed consistently.
I think of it like this: those experiences may spark a flame, but in order to fan the flame, to make it burn with commitment, you must have a BIG reason why.
When it comes to keeping the motivation flame alive, you have to approach it the same way that you approach brushing your teeth. You’ve heard it from your dentist for years: in order to maintain healthy, cavity-free teeth, you have to brush them DAILY.
The same idea holds true for motivation. If you want your athletes to consistently do the hard things necessary to reach their goals, it’s something you have to integrate into your coaching every. damn. day.
Motivation gets you going; commitment keeps you going.
Watching highlight videos or listening to music or your favorite podcast can do the job in the short term, and that’s something I advise everyone I work with to do daily.
But that alone likely won’t be enough.
To really help your athletes develop focus and commitment, you have to reach into your coaching toolbox and utilize some drills that cut deep into the real reasons they are pursuing their goals.
To get you started, I’m going to outline three of my favorite drills to help athletes develop motivation and maintain it.
3 strategies for developing unbreakable motivation, focus, and commitment
Motivation is a powerful, yet tricky beast.
Sometimes it’s easy, and you find yourself working with someone wrapped up in a whirlwind of excitement. Other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate your athletes, and you have to pull them out of the death spiral of procrastination.
The trick? Have a variety of tools in your “motivation arsenal.”
In this section I will share three strategies and drills I use at least 80% of the time to help build motivation and increase commitment.
Strategy #1: Telescopes, microscopes, and reverse engineering
The biggest mistake I see that leads to breakdown of motivation and commitment is that people fail to understand how their end goal can be traced back to today. You’ve probably heard the advice to set challenging “stretch” goals.
While that’s great advice, setting big long-term goals seems overwhelming to many people, causing them to burn out before they see significant progress.
The key is to break down big goals into smaller steps, connecting “someday” to “today.”
The telescopes, microscopes, and reverse engineering process helps identify long-term goals. You can then break these down into a concrete, daily process and routine to follow.
Here’s how it works:
First, talk about the “telescope” goals that your athlete has and get them all down on paper in chronological order. You can go as far out as they wish. Typically, I try to do 90 days, six months, nine months, one year, and five years. The telescope can see as far as they want to go, but at the same time, we don’t want to overwhelm them.
Once you have those clear telescope goals, reverse engineer them to what you can do TODAY to get closer than you were yesterday.
We often refer to these as “microscope” goals. These micro, daily goals should be followed up on a predetermined, consistent basis to check in and provide accountability.
This is a strategy that can be used with all athletes, but it works best for people who get overwhelmed by thinking about the amount of time and work it takes to reach long-term goals.
When you help break it down—showing them a small step they can take today and how it directly contributes to their long-term goal—everything seems more manageable.
It’s the start that stops most people, and excellence in small things leads to excellence in all things.
Accomplishing the DAILY microscope goals will lead you to your telescope goal.
Strategy #2: Vision Boards
In order to be a well-rounded coach, we have to recognize that the people we work with learn in different ways. Vision boards are a strategy you can use to help visual learners create an image of success.
I strongly encourage you to create a vision board for yourself, and if you are working on a team, I highly recommend you create one together as a team-building motivation and focusing exercise.
A vision board is simply a collection of images, quotes, and words that will motivate and help keep you committed to accomplishing your goals. Place your vision board where you will see it every day.
This will keep your goals in the front of your mind and motivate you to achieve them on a daily basis.
Personally, I keep my vision board above my desk and on my phone and and I look at it multiple times each week. It serves as a reminder for me to constantly ask myself: Is what I am working on right now helping me get to where I want to go?
The vision board is great for getting your athletes to constantly check in on their progress and refocus on what they want to accomplish.
Strategy #3: Find Their “Why”
Most coaches recognize the importance of goal setting and make some effort to help their athletes with this. But often, I hear frustrations arise when it doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good.
Despite setting goals, athletes still struggle, lose steam, and give up.
The problem is that many of the traditional methods of setting goals are too surface-level and fail to recognize the different kinds of deeper motivation and commitment.
We have our athletes write down their goals, which usually comes out to something like: “I want to get stronger and add 3 inches to my vertical.”
This can be tricky, because it’s not that these are bad goals, but if we stop here, we’re not digging deep enough.
Saying you want to “get stronger” or “add 3 inches to my vertical” may be a good starting point, but it won’t cut deep enough when things get hard and they want to give up.
We have to do a better job of tying this into a “why” that really connects with the individual on a deep and personal level.
If you are working with someone who continually struggles to bring focus, energy, and commitment to the table, you can help them identify why they are pursuing their goals on a deeper level.
I call it “Finding your WHY”, and it’s proven to be a powerful tool for athletes who’ve struggled with motivation.
To help you see what I mean, I’ve included a PDF download that you can use with athletes that will walk them through the process of taking a general goal and tying it to a deeper “why.”
Download: Finding Your WHY
Download the PDF, go through it yourself, and give it a try with one of your athletes this week.
What to do now
So there they are—my three favorite drills for igniting and sustaining motivation. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about how you can start applying what we’ve covered today.
As you can see, while they’re all aimed at accomplishing the same thing, each goes about it in a slightly different way. None of them are “better” than the other; which one you use comes down to who you’re working with and what works best for them.
If one of the strategies isn’t working, try out another (assuming you allowed ample time for it to work, of course).
Here’s your assignment this week:
- Take a few minutes to assess your overall game plan for helping your athletes with motivation. Are you encouraging them to get a daily dose of motivation while also providing some ongoing, higher level strategies for sustained focus and commitment?
- Try out one of the strategies covered today with one of your athletes this week. Each of the strategies have unique benefits, and while there isn’t a wrong answer in terms of which one you use, there may be a better choice based on your specific situation.
- If you’re working with someone who seems to get overwhelmed by the big picture, use the telescope + microscope goal-setting strategy to connect how their actions today directly lead to that long-term “someday” goal.
- If you’ve tried traditional “write it down” goal setting and it hasn’t worked well, the Vision Board strategy is a great option.
- Finally, if you have someone who struggles to bring energy and focus and have that “spark”, the Finding Your WHY exercise may be just what they need to turn things around.
Download the “Finding Your WHY” PDF. As outlined, this provides a twist on traditional goal setting that, honestly, works well with just about every team/client/athlete you’ll work with. Consider adding this to your initial consultation process or guiding your team through it at the start of each season.
Give that a shot this week and see how it goes.
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