Josh Leeger asked a question about my thoughts on motivation following a post of mine below. I decided to transfer my answer to a new post in the hopes that it can lead to more discussion and more meditations on it from me as well. So, my thoughts on motivation:
Motivation is something that Im increasingly pessimistic about (and I didnt mean that in an ironic sense). I can only speak for me and my experiences here, but, heres some points Ive noticed in my studies of martial arts:
1 – Even a motivated, dedicated person will have different levels of motivation over his lifetime. I can cite myself in this category. With kids, wife, stress, money problems, injuries all sorts of things conspire together to stand in the way of a good training schedule. I cant practice as much now as I would like to or did when I was younger. I go through cycles where I train more and when I train less.
2 – Im not even sure you can teach or inspire motivation. Ive seen hundreds of people that would talk the talk, but never got around to walking the walk. And walking the walk long term is what is needed in gongfu – skill acquired through hard work over time. As much as Ive personally tried to push and lead people to try more and to drive themselves harder, it doesnt seem to do much. I think I can set an example, I think I can occasionally get like minded people, but Im just increasingly pessimistic about creating a motivated individual from one who is not.
3 – And honestly, our culture is progressively not promoting self-motivation. Many believe its preferable to go to a group aerobics, yoga or crossfit type class than it is to learn the lessons of forging oneself, the lessons of dedication and self-discovery one can obtain are left by the wayside though, in that case. Being led by the collar is not the same as boldly going forward under ones own power. But then again, gaining spiritual, meaningful internal insight is not something that society is promoting or putting value on these days.
4 – I personally predominantly teach adults, not young kids in a wrestling program, or zit-faced teenagers at army boot camp. I cant really force them to do anything. I remember trying to get my students to work towards certain goals over a 3 month period. Although they were all self-dictated goals, they had 3 months, they were concrete and obtainable only one person out of about half a dozen got anywhere close to completing their goals. Disappointing, but instructive to me as well about the level of peoples motivation. Heck, I cant even make people come to class on a consistent, regular basis and that is something that I think should be the bare minimum necessary.
5 – My innate nature is to just tell people to suck it up and get to it. When I was a kid if you had to do your chores, you had to. It wouldnt matter to my Grandpa if I didnt feel like chopping wood today, either I did it or I didnt do anything else until I did. Whining is generally the name of the game these days. Whether its I was tired, to I had something else to do, to I hurt my little thumb and cant practice, to the slightly more honest I just didnt feel like it – Its apparently easier to whine about it than to dig in and do it.
6 – Another cultural reason, many people, in an effort to preserve their own sense of responsibility and prevent damage to their ego, would always prefer to place the blame and responsibility on someone else, rather than themselves. You hurt yourself, you sue someone else. You didnt learn that in school, you blame the teacher and the school. Youre fat, you blame society and the man. Its always easier for people to feel good about themselves by shifting all this onto something or someone else.
Theres probably a lot more to this. Ive got to get back to the kids now though. More later.
And I would love to hear other thoughts on this!