UK Olympics Coaches say “motivation not important.” Really?

sirensI was driving around the rain-lashed roads of Cheshire sometime between Christmas and New Year when I switched on the radio: Radio 5 Live – all the sport you can…eh…listen to… even golf.

The four guests on the show were each the head of the UK Olympic effort for their specific sport. All had done very well at the summer’s games.

They all shared the same, great job title…

Performance Director…

Not manager, or supervisor, or leader. Performance Director. No ambiguity. No wiggle room.

One of them said something really interesting about his athletes.

He said that “motivation was not important.”


He said that “motivation was not important.”  The other three all agreed readily.

Apparently, motivation comes and it goes. The Performance Directors don’t look for athletes who are super motivated all the time. Personally, I think there’s actually something a bit other-worldly about people who are always “on.” Maybe they’re faking it. Or taking it!

It’s the C-Word

What the Performance Directors look for is commitment. Not motivation.

They didn’t elaborate. They left that to me…

Achieving great stuff involves pain. Sorry. It just does. It is not motivation that gets you up at 5am on a dark January morning to go for a 10 mile run when no one is looking. Or in the bizniz world, to repeatedly leave your comfort zone, learn new stuff, meet new people, see no barriers and tackle every opportunity head on without fear.

And if you are looking for motivation to replace the dread of the pain you will be disappointed and then you won’t do what you need to do and you will never be standing on that box with a “1” painted on it.

Motivation/Commitment – what’s the difference Marky…?

Let me tell you what I think…

Motivation is…

…a reason for action.

Motivation tends to be rational. It tends to be outside of us. It is an externality.

Thing is, it is difficult to hold on to that reason for action when really our body and mind quite often just want to take the easy route: avoid the pain; stay in bed; stay in our mental bed (comfort zone).

Commitment is…

…about dedication.

It doesn’t try to rationalise what we must do. Commitment just is. It’s a decision. Come hell or high water. It’s based on emotion and, although not irrational, is not reliant upon there being a rationale for it.

Commitment is internal. A gut feel.  An act of giving yourself to something or someone. A decision that isn’t swayed by a rainy day, or tiredness, or lack of motivation.  

Gold medal…

The committed win. Because, and I paraphrase someone whom I cannot identify even on Google: “you will win in the end and if you haven’t won it isn’t the end.”

Monday, Monday…

So I stare out of the window on this dreich Monday morning. Soon, after I take my boys to school, I will be alone in this house once more…for the first time in 17 days.

My heart sings because I have a slight preference for what Myers and Briggs would call introversion which means that despite my fathomless love for my children I have been without the small level of isolated self-reflection I need for over two weeks and therefore I am tired, tired, tired.

My motivation (reason for action) tells me that I am due, no…deserve, to go back to bed or some other version of the me-time I so desperately need to top up on. And those cool 1000 thread-count cotton sheets (thanks Santa!) beckon me like a Siren. (Next time Santa – send a Siren as well.) 😉

I have so many reasons to succumb…

But I won’t.

I will get on with executing my plan. Not because I am motivated to do so. Right now – I am far from that. I will execute my plan because I am committed to it. Dedicated to it.

Even although, dear plan, right now, I am not in love with you.

Happy New Year.

Make this your best year ever.

If not now, when?

3 Responses to UK Olympics Coaches say “motivation not important.” Really?

  1. Harry Ziman January 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Great post Mark, very thought provoking. Thank you.

  2. Hiren Patel January 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Happy New Year Mark,

    Great post as always and what a corker for the start of the 2013… Thanks.

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