Why Commitment Is More Important Than Motivation

What separates elite athletes from the rest is their investment and belief in their own success.

I’m with Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats: I don’t like Mondays either. It’s not because I hate my job. I consider myself fortunate enough to love what I do. It’s because I know my social media timeline will be clogged up with a bunch of vacuous quotes like “It’s Monday, don’t forget to be awesome! #mondaymotivation.” I just don’t think a bunch of motivational quotes is going to have a significant impact on your ability to stick to your fitness goals and help you realise your ambitions.

I’ll let you into what I think really makes the difference: Commitment. When people find out I work with high performance athletes they invariably get round to asking me what it’s like to work with pro athletes. The perception is that it must be some sort of utopian world where every athlete rocks up with a spring in their step, ready to go hard in the gym.

They ask, “Those athletes must be super motivated, right?” Wrong. Elite athletes are just like you and me: They have good days and bad days. They have days where they are bang up for training and they have days where they simply can’t be arsed. They have days where they are super pumped and super motivated (probably due to the quotes they’ve just read) and they have days when motivation to train has dropped off the edge of a cliff, and no amount of “seize the day #mondaymotivation” is going to help.

The secret sauce that separates those that push on through dips in motivation is commitment. If you look at the graph below, in which the red line represents motivation levels in athletes and the blue line represents their commitment levels, you can see that motivation fluctuates massively.

When motivation is high, we are eating clean, training double sessions, and posting selfies with our t-shirts pulled up. But like a rollercoaster, motivation will inevitably dip, and then we are tucking into a tub of ice cream and washing it down with a beer whilst cancelling our gym membership. The key to long-term success is fully committing. Commitment is all about being dedicated to an activity, and the good thing about commitment is it’s far less volatile. Sure, it will also have peaks and troughs but the shifts are nowhere near as violent as the ones we typically experience in motivation.

What you see with an athlete preparing for an Olympic Games over a four-year cycle is their ability to crack on even when motivation is at an all time low. What allows them to push through slumps in motivation is the fact that they are fully committed to the outcome.

I think most people reading this article that struggle to stick to a training plan when it gets tough are doing their own version of the hokey cokey dance. When motivation is high, they put the right foot in, when motivation is low, they put the right foot out. They continue to go in out, in out, and shake it all about, never really accomplishing anything. Successful athletes are rubbish at the hokey cokey, because right from the get-go they jump with both feet in and they stay in for the long haul. That’s what separates elite athletes from most of us. Athletes are very good at committing because they are both feet in.They can ride the motivation rollercoaster because they are committed.

Consider that the reason you struggle to stick to your plans is exactly because you need a feel good motivational quote to get you started, rather than the knowledge that you’ve fully committed to the task. I know for me, I’m not particularly interested in hearing how motivated someone is – I’d much rather see their level of commitment.

Ready for some more real talk?

Life Ain’t Easy: Train Anyway

Leave a Comment