Getting and Staying Motivated

An essay about how to maintain motivation.

By on February 12, 2021 | Leave a reply

AJW's TaproomThese days, there are plenty of factors that challenge our motivation to train. First, there is the ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 and its impact on races. Many of us are busy trying to get and stay fit while not knowing if our goal events will happen. Then, there are the seemingly endless distractions brought on by social upheaval, economic hardships, and general instability. In my experience, a distracted mind almost always begets a distracted body. And finally, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, there is the weather. This winter, while not record breaking in terms of snowfall, seems to be throwing one miserable day after another at us. Frankly, it’s a wonder we don’t all just stay in bed until May!

Motivation has long been an interest of mine both as a runner and as an educator. The notion of intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards as well as the simple truth that some days are just harder than others, have long challenged my thinking about what makes us tick. One of my favorite thinkers on the topic of motivation is Daniel Pink. And, if that name sounds familiar to longtime readers of AJW’s Taproom, it’s because I have written about Pink before, first in 2012 and then again in 2015. Given our current circumstances, it seems to me that Pink and his ideas on human motivation deserve yet another look.

In his landmark book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink outlines three fundamental motivators central to the human condition: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Citing years of research, Pink makes the point that the human desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose makes us intrinsically motivated. In fact, Pink asserts that these three fundamental motivators trump extrinsic forces such as money, fame, and social status for most people and in most circumstances.

Reflecting on our current situation, I feel that these times demand that we dig deeply into what gives our lives purpose. Certainly, autonomy and mastery can have a role in getting us out the door, but for me running gives me a sense of purpose in my life and if I focus on that it can be a motivator. The seemingly endless loop of uncertainty that we are all living through can be disconcerting at best and downright depressing at worst. In that context, finding some sense of purpose, any sense of purpose really, can be that thing that keeps us going.

And so, if you, like me, are slogging through this miserable winter wondering if you will be able to enjoy your dream race later in the year, take solace in the fact that you are not alone and attempt to break life down into little bite-size bits. In doing so, a sense of purpose can be revealed and your drive to get down the trail a little faster and a little farther can be rekindled.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Taproom favorite Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida. Named after “the world’s worst superhero,” Cigar City’s Florida Man Double IPA is a massive hop bomb that is surprisingly not too bitter. Almost a cross between a West Coast style and New England style, Florida Man is a fresh take on a longstanding variety.

Call for Comments

  • From where are you deriving your motivation right now?
  • Do autonomy, mastery, and purpose factor as motivations for you?
  • What else is getting you out the door to run on the daily?
Andy Jones-Wilkins
Andy Jones-Wilkins finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.