Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

When I was in high school, my basketball coach asked me to join the cross country team and I reluctantly said yes. At that time I hated running. I ran as a form of conditioning in basketball and track, but I viewed it as a necessary evil.

I remember, after every practice run or race, I told myself "I never want to do that again," but somehow I always found myself doing it again. Not surprisingly though, that was my first and only season of cross country.

This last summer I made the decision to start running as a way to get back into shape. Later, I ended up joining a running club. Miraculously I now enjoy running.

Back then I was barely able to run a full 3 miles without feeling like dying. Now, after five sedentary years and gaining 30 pounds, I am somehow able to run 8 miles consistently. Not only that - I went from dreading the next time I had to run to looking forward to it.

If you told me that I was capable of running 8+ miles straight back then, I would have called you crazy. Now I do those runs on a weekly basis. Also, I'm looking to increase my endurance to the point where I can do 18+ mile runs.

So What Changed?

It's not that I wasn't physically able to run 8+ miles during high school. After all, I was in way better shape back then. I would say that back then I did not have the same internal motivation. My reasons for running did not come from within. Rather, my biggest reason for why I ran was that I didn't want to disappoint my coaches. This was an external motivation, which could only take me so far.

This time around, it was solely my choice to start running. There's no external pressure to do it - I know that I can quit any day and no one would care or think less of me. It may sound counterintuitive, but this freedom is what allows me to stay motivated. That's because it lets me know that I'm doing it because I genuinely want to.

We all understand this of human nature: if you tell a person what to do, they are less likely to want to do it, even if they know it's in their own interest to do it. Also, if the person does it, they will most likely do a worse job than if it was through their own volition. 

During school (and I guess throughout my whole childhood) I got accustomed to being controlled. I was told what I should or shouldn't do and what I should or shouldn't aspire to. As a result, I lost touch with my own wants and needs - the things that wake up my internal motor. 

I think this is what happened with me and running. I felt the external pressure to run, therefore I didn't do so well. Now that I have no one telling me what to do and feel no pressure, I am more motivated than ever to be a better runner. Now, instead of having people push me, I have an internal motor that's faster and unrelenting. 

Making the transition between being internally motivated rather than externally hasn't been easy. After being externally directed for so long, it's taken me 5 years to realize that running is something I genuinely want to do. This is just one thing, but there are many other aspects of my life where I'm still lost. 

This is why I would urge parents and teachers to stop controlling children's lives so much. For about 18 years we push them towards what we want out of them and then when they're set free we expect them to suddenly become strong willed. This just doesn't make sense.

What we need to do is teach them to be in touch with and follow their own compass, because that's where they will thrive. 

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

In the professional world, we are appalled when employers abuse their power. For example, we feel it is extremely inappropriate for employers to make romantic advances on their employees. This is because the employee would be afraid to say no, since the possibility of getting fired would be in the back of his/her mind. 

As we can see, employers have to act with more respect due to the reality of this power disparity. They have to be extra careful so as to not abuse their power. The greater the power disparity, the more respectful and careful the person of power must be.

The way I see it, there is no greater power disparity than in the parent-child relationship. Children depend on their parents in every way possible. They are completely defenseless and, unlike employees, they do not have the capacity to leave. That's why I believe children deserve the most respect and compassion we could give them. Just like in the employer/employee situation, it is extremely important for parents to be careful that they don't abuse their power. Unfortunately most people do the opposite.

Most parents believe it is perfectly okay to mold their children into whatever they want them to be. They implement many tactics that often run against the child's own wishes and they disrespect the child's autonomy. This causes many problems for the child in the long-run.

Parental abuse of power is not always as clear as inflicting physical pain. It can include more subtle things such as enforcing your beliefs onto them. Even more than the employer who makes a romantic advance, it is not fair to do these things to kids because they have an immense pressure to conform to your wishes.

We need to understand that kids are afraid to say no to you because they depend on you. 

Kids need to be reassured that you wont take away their freedom for being their authentic selves. This is where the importance of unconditional love comes in. Most people say they love their children no matter what, but they have a rather flexible definition of love, which renders the word meaningless. 

Just look at how we treat our children when they do something we disapprove of: we invoke guilt and fear, we threaten them, we neglect them, we inflict physical and emotional pain, we lie to them by saying "Santa won't bring presents this year" etc. To truly love a person you must first respect them, and those type of actions clearly show a lack of respect.

By abusing your power, you are raising a person who will continue to be a submissive people-pleaser and therefore become an easy target for abusive people. Either that or you will create a person who will use their own power as an opportunity to be abusive. I can't even tell what's worse. 

Most people think disrespecting their child's autonomy is the only way to raise them right. Well, I'm here to say that it doesn't have to be that way. Not only do non-abusive methods exist, but implementing them will give you much better results.