I canít tell you how many people Iíve met who have no time under the bar, no idea of why theyíre training, and no vision for their future powerlifting career. They donít give a fuck, and theyíre not going anywhere. Donít make their mistakes: know your motivation.

Staci and I were talking yesterday about working with clients, and why some people seem to have it easy. My clients are typically highly-motivated, goal-oriented individuals who already have a working knowledge of the powerlifts, of nutrition, and of their bodies ó otherwise, I wouldnít work with them! But her clients are usually new to physical culture, and that presents a new set of challenges. Some are overly anxious to jump into a new routine ó risking burnout or injury ó and others donít seem to really know why they want to train at all.

Even if youíre in the former group, you might not understand your motivation as well as you might. For a long time, I didnít. I knew I loved to train, and I had a vague idea of the kind of lifter I wanted to be (an elite one!) but that was it. Once I started thinking about my motivation, and started to understand why I lift, I became a better lifter overnight.

What Motivation Is Not
True motivation doesnít come from lifting to get a six pack and pick up Crossfit chicks. It doesnít come from lifting to win championships and money, either. Goals like those are great to have, but theyíre short-lived ó and what happens after you achieve or give up on them?

Iím getting at the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If youíre extrinsically motivated, then you go to the gym to either get some type of external reward, or to avoid some type of external consequence. On the other hand, if youíre intrinsically motivated, you lift because you love to lift ó you need to lift. Itís part of who you are. To me, that ó and only that ó is true motivation.

Thereís nothing wrong with extrinsic motivation, really. Most people are extrinsically motivated to some degree, and you can exceed at lifting without any deep sense of motivation. But chances are you will never reach your ultimate potential if youíre only lifting to achieve some goal.

The good news? Over time, you can find, develop, and benefit from motivation.

Motivation Versus Discipline
Itís important to recognize that itís okay to feel unmotivated. Oftentimes, that just means your motivation is being overshadowed by other things going on in your life ó or by negative habits that youíve allowed to build up over time. In either case, recognize that, to some degree, you can compensate for motivation with discipline.

Itís an easy idea. Force yourself to go through the motions, regardless of whether you feel like it. Youíll still get the same benefits out of your training, even if youíre not into it. The downside: youíre not going to keep doing something youíre not into. Discipline is a short-term solution.

Understanding Your Motivation
So how do you find your true motivation? First, you accept the need for discipline, patience, and consistency. This should be an easy commit: you need those habits to become a great strength athlete regardless of your motivation. With very few exceptions, it takes at least 8-10 years to build the strength and muscle necessary to compete at the top levels of powerlifting, bodybuilding, and strongman.

Discipline, patience and consistency might be enough for many people to develop motivation, but you donít have to take a passive role in the process.

Reflection is a great practice to incorporate into your life, independent of any goals you might have. Reflection helps you to understand yourself, and to live a more genuine life. When it comes to motivation, reflection is easy. You just need to ask yourself one question: ďWhy do you lift?Ē

You donít need to answer that question! The answer isnít important. Itís the process of asking the question that opens your mind up to understanding and benefitting from your intrinsic motivation.

Of course, asking yourself a question in a genuine way, without expectation of a response, is difficult in itself. If youíre struggling, I strongly recommend incorporating reflection into some type of regular meditation practice.

Have a Vision
I just said that goals arenít going to help with your intrinsic motivation. So why is a vision any better?

A goal is a specific, measurable, achievable target for the future. A vision is different: itís an aspirational image that might not be measurable and should not be achievable. Itís something youíre constantly striving towards, but never reaching. Seems weird, but itís an idea that goes as far back as the ancient Greeks, who believed that a good life involved the constant pursuit of arete, or excellence, in all its forms.

So your vision, your desire for future excellence, is actually very much a part of your true motivation. My vision involves helping people -- whether as a professor, a coach, or a friend ó and being able to offer that help because Iím confident in myself and my abilities, and jacked as fuck. Donít stress about nailing down your vision, but do make sure that your vision reflects your personal values, whatever those are.

Obviously, after you start to understand your motivation, you need to put it into practice. Thatís the easy part ó success breeds success, and once you see the benefits of incorporating motivation into your mental training, youíll want to practice it as often as possible!

Thinking About the Future
I really enjoy mental training, and so Iím happy to write more about it ó but only if thatís something that interests you. If so, let me know what other mental training topics that you struggle with or are interested in, and Iíll try to incorporate them into future blog posts and articles.

In the meantime: GIVE A FUCK. Put aside some time to think about why you train. Youíll benefit from it.

by Ben Pollack