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What is motivation and how to improve it?

In this chapter we will talk about:

  • what motivation is
  • types of motivation
  • how to increase motivation


Motivation is one of the most important topics not only in sports. It is also a topic that is the most studied, as evidenced by the fact that there are over 600 definitions of motivation. Motivation is a driving force that sets human behavior and activity in motion. Motivation therefore affects our daily lives. Motivation explains why people do what they do. Everything we do has some reason and therefore everything has its motive. It is important to realize that our motivation changes over time, it is normal that it decreases and increases again during a sports career. We are never motivated by just one motive, but always by a complex of motives.

So when is motivated behavior started:

  • when the motive is strong enough
  • if the objective is likely to be achieved
  • if the achievement of the goal is fulfilling for the athlete

Motivation is also linked to a certain environment. It is possible that a child will not enjoy playing football at school as much as playing in a football club.

The most common reasons why athletes choose specific sports:

  • the sport is interesting and satisfying for them
  • they are encouraged to take part in sports around them
  • they feel capable of mastering the skills associated with a particular sport
  • they are exposed to sports from childhood
  • they have built a circle of friends in sports
  • sport is a way for them to improve and excel
  • they generally do sports for their health

Regarding motivation, there are statements that are not entirely true, so let’s put them in the right perspective:

  • we can get motivation from others – we can only get inspiration from others, which then motivates us, the only real motivation is the one that is inside us and is only in our control; a lot of athletes feel that they should be motivated by coaches, but coaches can help set goals, create a supportive motivating environment, help find lost motivation, hold on in difficult moments, show the way, but an athlete is responsible for his motivation only himself
  • fame and fortune are the biggest motivators – they are certainly one of the factors, but they are not the only factors and certainly not the biggest ones, the motivator should always be the best possible performance, thanks to which fame and fortune can come; if the only motivation is fame and fortune, it will be a very short-term motivation that will not work
  • strong motivation automatically means success – although motivation is one of the most important articles for success, it is not the only one, several other attributes are important for success – talent, physical skills, discipline, growth mindset, support, patience and many more


Internal end external motivation

Internal motivation is associated with participation in sports and the joy of sports. Internal motivation is needed for long-term success. It is characterized by the fact that the athlete enjoys sports, knows his why, likes to work on his improvement, all this helps him stay motivated, even if he gets into difficult situations.

The inner motivation is that the athlete is the biggest rival to himself and motivates himself to improve compared to his previous results.

The highest level of internal motivation is known as flow. The state of flow means immersing yourself in the activity as if nothing else mattered. A flow state occurs when there is a perfect match between the requirements for activity and the ability to respond perfectly to those requirements. Our body blends in perfectly with the activity. Flow is the ultimatum state that every athlete wants to achieve.

External motivation is associated with rewards and benefits. Athletes participate in sports and expect admiration, fame, praise, winning trophies, wealth.

External motivation is needed, but if it is the main source of motivation, it will not work in the long run. If someone is involved in sports just to get something out of it or to make someone happy, it is usually difficult to keep motivation.

For athletes, both sources of motivation, internal and external, are necessary. However, internal motivation is much more important and should exceed external motivation. If you want to maximize your potential, use both sources of motivation. Find a sport that you enjoy, in which you want to improve, for which you literally would do anything. Then look for sources of rewards that will drive you even further.

Thus, internal motivation is the best in the long run, while external motivation can serve in the short term. However, the external can come only after the internal motivation already exists.

So how can we increase motivation?

  • be as honest as possible about the current level of motivation – why you do sports, how you set goals, how good you are, do not limit yourself only to your opinion, have fun with your surroundings
  • remind yourself why you started with sports and write everything down, it is always better to see it and be able to go back to it
  • focus on tasks and not on the ego – focus on individual tasks that lead to improvement, those that you have under control, that is, a strong orientation to internal motivation and work with it, if you focus on the ego and rewards, you focus on external motivation, if you have a problem with motivation, think about not placing too much emphasis on your ego
  • focus on things you can control – your approach, your preparation, how much you train and the quality of training, how much you devote yourself to regeneration, a healthy lifestyle
  • look for ways to experience even small successes – if we feel that we are successful, our motivation grows, so try to look for situations from which even a small success can arise compared to what you want to achieve, thanks to which your motivation will grow, this will also help your self-confidence, divide the training into smaller tasks and celebrate it as a success every time you complete the task
  • pay attention to the diversity of your training – if you keep repeating the same things, it will become stereotypical and lifeless for you, so change your training from time to time, every sport requires constant repetition, but look for new training methods that you can add to your training
  • surround yourself with highly motivated people – if you are surrounded by people who have a drive and are very oriented towards success, you can be inspired by their energy
  • take failures as feedback on what doesn’t work – failures sometimes happen, it’s important not to let it be decided if something goes wrong, don’t think of it as a failure, but as a task that needs to be worked on if you don’t succeed
  • set goals – how to set goals is a complex topic, which we will address in a separate article

In this article, we have summarized what motivation is, what types of motivation we have and how to improve motivation. In the following articles, we will look in more detail at how to set goals and how to work to improve motivation specifically.