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#MondayMotivation: 3 Sports Psychology Tricks to Beat the Grind

Topics: Career Advice

If you’re reading this from your desk, you’re probably not a professional athlete. But, that doesn’t mean that you have nothing in common with your favorite sports heroes. For example, you both have to deal with what performance psychologist James Taylor calls “the Grind,” the point at which training (or working) becomes “tiring, painful, and tedious.”

“The Grind is what separates successful athletes from those who don’t achieve their goals,” writes Taylor in Psychology Today. “Many athletes when they reach this point either ease up or give up because it’s just too darned hard. But truly motivated athletes reach the Grind and keep on going.”


(Photo Credit: Joshua Sortino/Unsplash)

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If you want to win in your career, you have to figure out how to power through those times when it seems too hard to keep going. These insights and tricks from sports psychologists might just help you succeed:

1. The 3 D’s

Direction, decision, and dedication – Taylor says these are the start of prime motivation. To unlock yours, ask yourself:

  • What directions can I go in? For example, in sports, Taylor says your choices are “stop participating completely, continue at your current level, or strive to be the best athlete you can be.” For work, it might be quit your job, accept the status quo, or try for a promotion or better job elsewhere.
  • Which direction do I choose? Decide on an option.
  • Can I dedicate myself to this path? “Only by being completely dedicated to your direction and decision will you ensure that you have prime motivation,” Taylor writes.

2. Intrinsic vs. Achievement Motivation

We think of athletes as being self-starters who naturally eat, sleep, and breathe their sport, but that’s not always the case. Amber Larson, a coach at Breaking Muscle, describes the two types of motivation this way:

Intrinsic Motivation: Defined as a construct and desire to be competent and self-determining. These athletes are usually self-starters because of their love of the game. Intrinsically motivated athletes are more likely to maintain effort and consistency across practice and competition.

Achievement Motivation: These athletes wish to engage in competition or social comparison. All things being equal between two athletes, whoever has the higher achievement motivation will be the better athlete because of the desire for competition.

Coaches who want to motivate athletes – or athletes who want to motivate themselves – need to understand these two types of motivation, and which one applies to the person in question. You can do the same in your professional life. Just remember, there’s no right or wrong motivation; the goal is to understand yourself, and proceed in a way that works for you.

3. A Positive Motivation Strategy

We’re all afraid of what will happen if we don’t hit our goals. That’s perfectly reasonable. The trouble starts when we continue this mindset even when contemplating future achievements. Instead of thinking, “I want to finish that project today,” we think “I have to finish that project today” – a slight difference in wording that can lead to a big difference in motivation.

“The thing to realise and understand is that often in sport the only thing that keeps a competitor going is their heart – and if your heart isn’t in something, you’ll eventually give up,” writes Australian performance consultant Jeffrey Hodges at Sportsmind. “Communicating with yourself using negative motivation language is a sure way to lose heart, and you’re too good for that.”

Hodges suggests trying an experiment:

“Right now, think of six tasks that are on your agenda to do this week. They might be work tasks, an assignment due for some course you’re doing, home chores, or training for your sport – it doesn’t matter. As you think of each task, rather than say to yourself, ‘I have to do such-and-such’, think instead: ‘I want to get that report to my boss by Friday morning’…. I now use this process for everything I choose to do – including wanting to put in my tax return on time!”

Tell Us What You Think

What do you do to motivate yourself to work better? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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