Motivation is a funny thing. Everyone is motivated for different reasons and even though there are millions of athletes in the world, we all have something unique that drives us. We all know the common forms of motivation: money, a “chip on the shoulder,” recognition, affirmation, family, and a multitude of other things. But how do we distinguish what works best for us or why? How do we truly know what we need to drive us to be our best?
We can’t fake motivation, and we can’t borrow someone else’s. We need our own. Our motivation is often the sum total of a number of things. It can be experiences, our background, how we were raised, and how we see ourselves in the future. Our motivation may derive from one specific unforgettable moment. It may stem from multiple emotional moments in our life. As an athlete, you may not even know what your motivation is yet, and hear me say, “THAT’S OKAY!”
My Motivation: Self-Doubt
My personal motivation came from always wanting more and never feeling quite up to par. I knew I was a great athlete and ball player but I always had some small sense of self-doubt, like I just wasn’t good enough for some reason. That self-doubt or small insecurity led me to push myself to find greatness. I pushed myself in hopes that my preparation, my awareness, my instincts, and my will could overcome any lack of physical ability.
In 2014, I was playing for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals affiliate) and wasn’t really sure if I had a shot to be called up that season. I started the season especially cold that year, hitting around .220 after 2 months of the season. My manager noticed I was disappointed one day after a tough game. He consoled me and told me that he, too, struggled in Triple-A, batting around .230. It gave me a jolt, because I knew my manager had never made it to the Big Leagues and had a bitterness for not having done so. I remember telling myself, “I don’t want to be you. I know I can be better than that.” Our conversation reminded me that I wouldn’t be content or satisfied to be that type of hitter, nor would I be satisfied to end my career before I reached my full potential.
After that day, I went back in “the lab” and decided I needed not only drastic physical change within my swing, but I also needed the same for my mental approach at the plate. I said I’m going to “live or die” with these changes and ride them out until the end of the season. I finished that season with the best numbers of my career and got The Call on September 4. That moment in my career is proof that your motivation can come from many different avenues. This most important thing is to keep searching for it.
You Can’t Fake It
Whatever does spark motivation, let it come from the heart. Let it be something inside you that no one else can take away from you. Hold onto it for dear life, to get you through the tough days and dark times.
Motivation is that voice that speaks to you when you feel tired, disappointed, and weak. Motivation reminds you why you started. More than that, it reminds you of the importance for you to finish. Your motivation is the daily reminder of why you can’t quit or just lie down after getting knocked down. Your motivation is why you get up early and why you stay up late.
You can try to fool yourself or even lie to yourself on your journey. Eventually motivation will look you in the eye and tell you like it is.
I tried to fool myself when I was in college at UNLV. I was telling people I met out at night that I was in the MLB. I got caught up in trying to be someone I was not. Eventually, my college head coach caught word of my behavior and nearly kicked me off the team. It was in that dark moment that I was reminded of my motivation and my “why.” I wanted to be a leader for my team and an example of excellence, but I wasn’t walking the walk. I had to change my way and thank God I had some people who challenged me to do so.
“Your Circle can be Another Form of Motivation”
It’s always a good idea to have some people in your corner who can “check” you. They can bring you back down the earth when you may have the wrong perception of yourself, or you’re veering in the wrong direction. Your circle can be another form of motivation that centers you and focuses your energy towards your goals. I’ve been lucky to have mentors and friends who always remind me of what I’ve told them that I will accomplish. I’ve always kept a small group of trusted confidants around me who will not allow me to be complacent.
This doesn’t apply to just sports. We are talking life in general. In life, we have to channel our motivation to achieve success. We never want to just “go through the motions.” We should always seek our “why,” and put intention in our actions.
The Difference Between Pros and Amateurs
Your motivation can build slowly; it can grow over time. Your motivation can also evolve, changing its form as you grow. It can be a trusted friend when you’re in need. In my career, I’ve noticed that motivation is a key differentiator that separates the professionals from the amateurs. The professional understands how to dig deep and get the most out of themselves because they stay motivated on a consistent basis. Find your motivation and consistently tap into it.