If you’re anything like me, at one point or another you’ve probably found it difficult to do things like get out of bed in the morning, do the dishes, drive that 56 minute commute to work every day, or hit the stop button when you’re binging on this past season of Game of Thrones. A lack of motivation is simply an inescapable human experience and, since I’m human, I’m unfortunately no different. In fact, I may be the world’s worst when it comes to getting out of bed in the morning; and it’s particularly difficult when getting up means that I’ll soon be jumping into the pool.
“The Thrill is Gone” is a song that can sum things up pretty well when I think about swimming competitively. Although Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell wrote the song in 1951, it was B.B. King’s 1970 version that made it famous. In this song, I’m almost certain that B.B. King is referring to my passion for swimming when he sings: “The thrill is gone; It’s gone away for good…you know I’m free, free now baby”. As you might imagine, when I got inspired to train and complete an ironman, this lack of passion and a complete absence of motivation to get back into swimming might be a wee bit of an obstacle. The truth is, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles sounded so much better than swimming a measly 2.4 miles. Weird, I know. However, just the thought of completing a full ironman got me back in the pool. Yep, even at 5am but the novelty of it wore off pretty quickly. In fact, I’ve already been making excuses about why I should skip a swimming workout. Mainly, I’ve been trying to convince myself that because of my swimming background I don’t need to focus on it as much. Well, I know, you know, and everybody knows that I’m not telling myself just a little lie; it’s a huge lie. At this point, I’ve got to figure out how to get the “thrill” back, and sooner rather than later would be nice. Good thing I’ve got some ideas and research to back them up. 🙂
Countless studies on motivation have been done to determine what motivates us. In fact, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Just ask employees in the Research and Development departments of companies like Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, and Apple. Basically, anything that involves marketing is rooted in motivation research. Companies use these research findings to manipulate us. This manipulation isn’t a bad thing; it’s simply to get us to buy their products, help us get in better shape, and increase the possibility that we’ll continue to use their products. Although I could write for days about the motivational tools used by these companies, I want you to be motivated to read the rest of this entry; so, I’ll narrow my focus on the one approach I’ll be using to improve my overall motivation. Mainly, I’ll be focusing on the fact developing and working in a collaborative and supportive environment (in academics, work, and sport) has a significant positive effect on one’s motivation for achievement. I don’t think any of us can deny that we would be much more motivated to get out of bed to work out in the morning if we had a group of people waiting for us or if we were to sync up our wearable technology (e.g., Apple Watch, Fitbit) with our friends and/or competitors.
Why Working in Groups is Effective
- Working in collaborative groups has been found to increase “situational interest”. This means that working in a group collaboratively will positively shift our interest and overall motivation when he find a task is disinteresting.
- It breaks up the monotony and creates a sort of imbalance that helps to reshape and peak our interest.
- It acts as a form of peer modeling. Basically, when working in a group, we are typically exposed to other participants who are more successful than we are in some areas. As a result, we become much more motivated in collaborative group formats in comparison to individualized tasks. We also tend to be much more motivated when model what we do after our peers in comparison to modeling our behavior after a teacher or coach. (Note: In my first blog post (See One, Do One, Teach One), I discussed that I was going to be focusing on establishing more of a peer-type experience when it comes to applied sport psychology task completion for this exact reason).
- Finally, it fosters responsibility and accountability resulting in us persisting longer and working harder in tasks perceived as difficult/challenging.
Although I knew, anecdotally, that working in a collaborative group would help with my overall motivation, it’s even more of a selling point when I know there’s science to back it up. If I really think about what I loved about swimming (other than competing), it was definitely being part of a team. Also, I had as much fun when I was an assistant swim coach at Pacific University Oregon. Therefore, I guess it would make a whole lot of sense to try and put together a group of swimmers to help get me motivated. Also, mixing in some instruction (i.e., me modeling for them) and using each other as examples of our strengths (i.e., us modeling for each other) will, no doubt, help the whole group to improve and feel motivated to come back the next time. With science backing me up, I know that getting this group together will help to spike my motivation and to get back into the pool…even at 5am when it’s 20 degrees (-7 C) outside. Who knows? I might motivate others and maybe, just maybe, I’ll even get the “thrill” back! 🙂
Until next time…
Update: Since it took me a while to finish this blog post (slacker!), I already have a group of about 10-14 highly dedicated triathletes coming to my workouts on Mondays and Fridays between 5:30am and 6:30am! Thanks to all of you for coming out! It’s been a lot of fun, I’m pretty sure we’re all learning from each other (I know I’m learning) and, as I predicted at the end of this entry, I’m a whole lot more motivated to roll out of bed because of you!