Someone on my athlete page suggested I write a post about motivation and commitment. I’m flattered that what I do is a source of motivation for others. I also have friends that help me get out the door simply knowing they are doing it too.
People ask me where I get my energy or my dedication. How do I just go do some of these things? The answer is a learned work ethic. Another piece of the puzzle is personality type. It’s not that I simply want to achieve my goal, I want to be MY best and anything less is unacceptable to me. I am committed to being and doing the best I can. It is actually EASIER for me to push and work hard than it is to not do it. What I have to watch out for is overdoing it, burn-out, being too hard on myself, and obsession. Motivation is not usually an issue. Pulling back on the reins is the issue half the time!
I learned at a young age from my parents that talent gets you far, but hard work will get you anywhere you want to go. The first example in my life that I can remember was in 6th grade. I was 11 my 6th grade year. I had never been on an airplane and my favorite thing to do in the summer was go to Texas to visit my cousin(my parents often drove there). In elementary school, I did well, but I never made all As. My parents told me upon starting 6th grade, “If you make straight As all year, we’ll buy you a plane ticket and you can go visit your cousin.” That did it for me! I worked really hard and got straight As…and even straight A+s for one of the quarters. In fact, I made straight As up until my second semester of my junior year of high school when I got my first devastating B and continued to work really hard for years following that to be a top notch student. “You are so smart!” people would say. Smart only gets you so far, but hard work makes the grades. Hard work gets you scholarships and opportunity. Another learned work ethic was in 9th grade. I played flute starting in 6th grade. I made the top band my first year of high school(9th grade), albeit second to last chair. I was happy just to make the top band that was mostly made of upperclassmen. I was really into flute and really wanted a new one. Once again, my parents taught me that I could achieve if I worked hard.They told me, “If you get first chair in the top band your sophomore year, we’ll get you a new, fancy flute.” That seemed like a stretch – it was hard to get first chair, even as senior. I practiced and I practiced and made my parents eat their words. I still have my flute that all my hours of practice earned me. Once again, hard work seemed to trump the goal that seemed nearly impossible. After that, they stopped waving the carrot in front of me. In fact, they no longer had to. It was ingrained.
Fast forward to now and once again, my learned work ethic has catapulted me into a professional level cyclist. You make your own luck by persevering, working hard and keeping a positive head about it. It didn’t happen overnight or even in a year. So you see, motivation and commitment were learned. How can you learn to do it now? It’s about prioritizing, truly committing to it, not just saying you are. My boyfriend wanted to train for a 50 mile running race and he fully committed to it. He was working full time, going to grad school full time, and somehow still had time for me. How did he commit? He was up at 5 AM every morning to run. The alarm would go off and while I’d be stay warm in bed and doze back to sleep as he kissed me goodbye, he would be off to the trailhead day after day, and sometimes it was in the dark. There were mornings he didn’t want to get out of bed. He felt groggy and wondered how he could move. Those mornings, I would give him the gentle nudge and a few words of encouragement to help him get going. That brings me to my second point – support. Have people in your life that support your goals because they will help you stick with what you want to do on the days you don’t want to do it. Getting started is often the hardest part. Speaking of goals, it also helps to have well-defined goals.
If you want to make something happen, you have to make it a top priority. It has to come first. You also have to focus on time management. I went to engineering grad school full time, worked two jobs, and raced my bike in 2005-2007. I look back and am still baffled I could do that. How DID I do that? Planning ahead. I apply my time management skills learned from my balancing act through college to now. A lot of people think I’m paid to just ride and race my bike, which is not the case. I WISH it was!!!!!! I have a day job for Ergon that has to get done too. I am blessed with the gift of extreme flexibility with my job, but with flexibility comes the commitment to making sure you get your work done too. An example of a day during a heavy week of training would be getting up early and working all morning, training in the afternoon, throwing in an hour of work between workouts that go into the evening, and then I go back to work at 7 or 8 PM until I go to bed. That is how I do it. I sometimes sacrifice my social life during the week. There are other things I’d love to do like read, watch a movie, relax, play guitar, etc that suddenly are no longer an option when I have to make other things a priority. A way that I make sure things get done is I schedule everything for the week on Sunday. Each hour of my day is planned to keep me on task. If I don’t see certain things in front of me with a time next to it, it’s too easy to blow it off. Accountability. If you have a hard time keeping yourself accountable on your own, find someone to support you and help keep you accountable – a workout partner, a spouse, a friend, a coach- someone you report to and care what they think. If I had kids like I know a lot of you(my readers) do, that would make things even more difficult because it would require even more support from family and friends to watch the kids. I also think about guilt with kids – feeling guilty for not spending time with your family while you’re off training or doing whatever you’re doing to achieve your goal. I feel this guilt when I’m home in NM visiting my parents. I feel guilty every day I go ride because I wish I could be spending the whole time with my family. They understand, but it doesn’t change that I wish I had more time to spend with family and friends. They also understand that I’m a better person to be around when I can get things done that are important to me. I’ve chosen to prioritize a portion of my time to training over seeing family and friends. It sounds bad when I type it, but it’s the truth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people that train and race, work full time, and have a family are very inspiring and committed.
Whew! I had a lot to say about that! To be committed to something, it’s about work ethic, time management, goal setting, planning ahead, and plain and simple – getting it done. To help with motivation on days where it’s not internally driven, have a support network. Make working toward your goal a habit. If you get off track, get back on ASAP. Cut off excuses the second you start making them because with enough excuses, you’ll talk yourself out of it. I’ve caught myself doing it on some of my hard, cold rides and I tell myself literally to, “Shut up and just get it done.” I’m constantly looking for ways to improve and grow not only in cycling, but in my life… some things a little more deep which I won’t get into, and some things a little more light like flossing every day or noticing my posture at the computer or when I’m eating (ahhh, I always hunch over!)
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permits. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”-unknown