6 Tips to Sustaining the Motivation to Finish

Regardless of the school project or the skill mastery at a sport there are methods you can use to keep the fire burning and the motivation to succeed at the forefront of your brain.

In my work with athletes I hear all sorts of reasons why it’s too tough to finish. Some of them are indeed creative, but most of them I’ve heard a thousand times before.  For some, the task no longer offers enjoyment or intrinsic rewards.  Sometimes repetitive failure  can build a negative belief system of self which is hard to extinguish.  I often hear from students that “others” (parents, coaches, teammates) expectations of them far exceed their abilities and they simply lose interest because it’s impossible to please others. Emotional outbursts can sometimes mask themselves as fear and worry about injury. When there is fear there is often a reduction in motivation.

Remember, confidence is directly related to repetitive task success regardless of how large or small the task is.  If success is perceived to be unachievable then motivation will slowly expire.  Without fire in the belly there will be no momentum. Doubt creeps in when confidence is low and soon a belief system develops that does not support desire and motivation.  With this type of thinking going on many athletes strongly consider giving up.

One of my students can’t seem to get the academic grades his parents want, or win a tournament even in the face of hours of practice, desire, and motivation. This smells of either external pressure or higher than usual and potentially unachievable performance expectations. I am here to tell you that “it’s not how you start, but how you finish” that is the most important regardless of the time it takes to get there. If you have a plan based on reasonable and measurable performance objectives you will achieve incremental success.

Regardless of the school project or the skill mastery at a sport there are methods you can use to keep the fire burning and the motivation to succeed at the forefront of your brain.

1.Have a written plan with a goal in mind and milestone objectives.  The size of the task might seem gargantuan and therefore tough to envision success.  The #1 objective is to accomplish the task or complete the project on time. In the process of execution it’s important to have little successes along the way. Little successes build momentum. We do this by breaking the task into little “increments” to be accomplished over a period of time.  This reduces stress, anxiety, and makes the task much more manageable. By making the task increments more manageable they are consequently easier to complete and therefore satisfaction comes more often and confidence grows.  The success inspires the athlete to tackle the next milestone.  Accomplishment builds intrinsic value and therefore self reward for the accomplishment.

2. Momentum is your # 1 supporter. Accomplishment builds confidence which builds belief in self, which develops the trust one needs to execute without distractions.  I call executing without distractions a “functional performance.”  Functional performing requires clear and conscious process oriented thinking.  You need momentum!

3. Avoid distractions. Distractions come in two forms; internal and external.  Internal distractions are the thoughts, and feelings that block us from conscious process oriented thinking. The good news is that we have the power to control internal distractions. External distractions are things outside of us we cannot control and actually have no real bearing on our success or failure unless we let them. Distractions creep in when confidence is at a low point, concentration wanes, or boredom sets in. If too much information congests the mind you will becomes distracted.  The mind can realistically only give one task 100% of focused effort.  Research suggests that 100% focus can last a maximum 45 minutes, depending on the task, which is just about the max amount of time anyone can focus with true clarity. Too much mind chatter causes mental congestion and confusion which causes thought drifting and loss of focus. To avoid distractions you need to know your limits and be aware of what distracts you.  Make a list of your Top 5 distractions.

4. Take time outs. The #1 objective is to focus for as long as possible without getting distracted.  To beat the distraction gremlin it’s important to know your concentration time limit.  When you reach your processing capacity take a planned time out.  Almost every sport has time outs. They are designed for regrouping, rest, stress reduction, and strategy.  You are a performer so why not build in scheduled timeouts during your performances to clear and rest the mind.  I like to suggest 4-8 minutes for mind clearance. Walk the dog, take a quick ride on your bike, listen to music or enjoy a cup of tea. The whole idea is to fill your mind with something unrelated to the task at hand.  When you return to the task you will feel energized, alert, and ready to move forward.

5. Lighten the load. We create way to much stress for ourselves.  If it’s not for the high expectations we create for ourselves it’s about the expectations others create for us that we stretch to accomplish.  All day long we collect what I call “stress nuggets.”  By the end of the day these nuggets weigh us down physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Life is about much more than the “performing” we do to reach that pre-determined goal.  Whatever it takes please be sure to reduce the stress.

6. Have FUN! Life is way too short to load ourselves up with “stuff” that takes us away from enjoying the activity.  After all, enjoyment is much greater if we simply focus on the process or the flow of engagement rather than focusing on the reward. There is always a time limit to a sporting event. It’s difficult to know what the score will be until the buzzer tells us the event is over. The reward will eventually come  – whatever it is, but if we don’t pay attention to our actions in the moment we miss the point of the activity all together.  The point is — to have Fun!

Incorporate these 6 tips to keep the fire burning.  It’s not always about the end result, but more about the process and the joy we encounter while on the journey.


Learn more about the motivation, success, and performance improvement by going to www.protexsports.com and asking John Ellsworth – Master Mental Game Coach

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