I’ve talked a lot over the years about “finding your why.” The “why” behind what we do as athletes is SO important. Without it, none of the gains, finish lines, or joy that we experience in our sport of choice would be possible. We need a deep-seeded motivation to sustain our longevity in athletics, otherwise it can go the way of the dodo in our lives; it becomes something we do for a time, but then get bored of and move on from.
So, why did you get involved in your sport in the first place? Did a friend convince you that it would be a good idea? Did you want to raise money and awareness for a cause close to your heart? Was it a family tradition? Were you trying to be healthy so you can be with your family for as long as possible? Did you want to test your personal limits and see how far you could go?
The strongest athletes have the strongest “whys,” and that’s not a coincidence. Their why - their intrinsic motivation - is what makes them get out of bed each morning, work towards their goals every single day, and it’s what enables them to be successful in the long-term. It’s important to note that this motivation comes from themselves, not from external sources. “Whys” that are rooted in external drive will only last for a time.
Think about it: this is how we are hard-wired as a species. If you attempt to drive a toddler to do something that he or she does not want to do, you’re not very successful. Sure, the child might ultimately do what you’re asking of them, but their compliance will be reluctant, and short-lived. If that same toddler wants something - deeply wants something (such as to keep up with an older sibling or to earn a treat) - then not only are they much more likely to be successful, but their success is generally deeper than when they are externally driven. We don’t outgrow this tendency when we become adults; it stays with us our entire lives.
To find your why, you might need to have a long conversation with yourself. You might need to ask yourself some tough questions. Your why might resemble someone else’s, but it will never be identical to someone else’s, so you can’t count on another person to determine it for you. You need to do that for yourself. Over time, whys can evolve, and that’s okay. We grow and change every single day, so it only makes sense that our whys would do the same along with us.
At the end of the day, all of this is the very foundation of what I talk about so much to athletes as a coach: self-awareness. An athlete who has self-awareness in abundance is virtually unstoppable; that’s why if you invest the time to find and acknowledge your why - YOUR personal motivation - nothing on this Earth will stop you from reaching your goals.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.