At Core PT & Performance, we are constantly trying to understand what makes people tick. Our favorite thing to do is help people get back to the things they love. But in order to tap into their motivation so they can put in the work, we need to understand why they love those things so much.
It’s no different when it comes to ourselves. My thing that I love is running. At first, I was content to just explain it away - “I don’t know why I love running, I just do.” But I know I would never let that slide with my clients, so I dug deeper.
Why the “Why” matters: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
Before I tell you my “why,” let me tell you why it’s so important to figure it out. We’ll use my running as an example: Because I love running, I want to get better at it. But in order to get better at it, I need to push myself. And it’s in the pushing where, if I’m not careful, I could start to love it a little less. Even as I get better at it. And why is that? Because intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that comes from within. It’s the type of motivation that gets us to do things just for the sake of doing them. We feel that the activity itself is the reward. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, requires external factors. We do something not for the sake of doing it, but because we feel we will get something out of it. That something could be many things - a new PR, a leaner body, validation from others, etc. Intrinsic motivation has to do with the journey, extrinsic motivation has to do with the destination.
So, when it comes to finding your “why,” try to figure out where that intrinsic motivation comes from. For me it comes from, of all places, a recurrent dream.
I’ve had this dream every couple of months since childhood. In it, I am running on a dirt road that’s lined with trees on one side and overlooks a field on the other side. It’s always summer and just before sunset in this dream. In other words, it’s perfect. This road doesn’t exist in real life, but it seems to be a compilation of different roads that I’ve traveled over the years.
The best part of the dream is running. I am always running fast but never feel tired, and in fact feel like I could run forever without tiring. It’s just me, the road, the sunset, and my unceasing legs.
This dream was always strange to me, because I started having it before I ever considered being a runner. But something about it stuck with me. It was as if the dream was telling me, “This could be you.” So now I’m working to make it a reality. I train so that I can run fast and far on all the prettiest roads I can find.
Finding your “Why”
Everyone’s reason for loving the things they love is unique. Most people can’t point to a recurring childhood dream as their primary intrinsic motivator. For some, it could be the mental health benefits of exercise. For others, it could be a way to find community and new friends through running groups or sports teams. Your why doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, and it doesn’t even need to make sense to anyone else. As long as it resonates with you and gets you to love the process, then you’re golden. So today your challenge is to think about what it is you love to do - whether it’s running, weightlifting, yoga, or something entirely different - and figure out why it’s so important to you.