Monday, January 16, 2017

What's My Motivation?

A friend over on Tumblr (her blog is here) mentioned the other day that she was having trouble getting motivated to go to karate class.

She's been in "competition mode" for a while now, and she's no longer in that mode - she's not going to compete and she isn't focused on that goal any more.  So now, she's having trouble finding her reason to go to class.

I've had those days.

I started to give her the standard, "Here's the reasons you should be training" spiel a lot of us give - that we should be focused on personal growth, etc. but it just sounded... wrong.

Because it is wrong.

Who am I to say why anybody other than myself should be motivated to train in the martial arts? We all have different agendas for training and we all have different goals.  We aren't all motivated by the same things.  Some of us need having a concrete goal in front of us to strive for while others don't need it.

Me, I train for my health, mostly - my mental and physical well being.  I like how the martial arts keeps my mind sharp and my body moving. It's an endless puzzle of new information that's always waiting for me to figure out.  I sleep better and I'm less stressed when I'm training than when I'm not training.

But other people want and need the pressure that competition puts us under in order to keep focused, and that's okay, even if it isn't my thing.  Others need that constant goal of the next rank to keep training. And that's okay, too. Over time, as we do this long enough, our goals will change naturally.

I think it becomes a problem only when our goals change and we don't change our expectations... and we lose interest in doing this crazy little hobby of ours.

Take achieving the rank of black belt.  For many of us, it's THE goal when we train - and honestly, we martial arts instructors sometimes make that rank so mystical, so magical, so important sometimes that we give the impression that it IS the only real goal in training.

Yes, yes, black belt is only the beginning... we say that, but do we live that?  I don't think we do, sometimes.

Depending on the style, it can take anywhere from three to five, or even ten or more years to achieve this rank.  We work so hard for it, and we achieve it...

Many martial arts schools do a poor job in a training plan and helping students stay focused and motivated beyond black belt.  This is one reason why so many of us quit at this rank and move on to other stuff to do - the next rank isn't as, well, sexy as black belt, is it?

Or take schools that are very focused on competition.  Fantastic, but what happens when you can't compete any more, or if the circumstances of your life don't allow you to train to the level required to be successful in competition?  How do you stay motivated to come to class if you can't do what everyone else is going to do?

It's like beating the final boss in a video game you love to play, and now the game's over.  Some gamers will restart the game and try to play it a different way (and some games are smart and build in or sell other stuff to do after you beat that final boss), and others will move on to another game.

We achieve a goal, we move on to the next one.

My friend said she needs to fall back on "discipline" to keep going until her motivation returns.  I agree to some extent, but to me it sounded like going to class was more of a negative thing, than a positive thing.

I think my friend needs to find new goal or a new motivation very quickly, or karate class will be a chore and an obligation and a negative, not the fun and positive thing it's supposed to be.

I can't say what that goal will be for her - I can't choose for her, after all - but I hope she finds it soon, so she can continue to train and keep her love for what she does.  I would hate to see her associate her classes with negative feelings.

So what motivates you to keep coming to class year after year?  Have your goals changed over time?  Let me know in the comments!