Friday: 30.June.2006

What motivates the ultra-competitive athlete? (Pyschic Pain?)

Went to the movie yesterday .. Letting Go, featuring Kelly Slater (from Cocoa Beach, Florida), who many regard as the greatest surfer of all time) .. outdoors, at Peninsula Park, on the Balboa peninsula (in Newport Beach).

Lots of people there (way more than I saw at the Laguna screening last year). Good film .. especially for a surf flick. Probably cuz it was about more than just riding giant waves.

The movie's star, Kelly Slater (who I'd never learned much about) is interesting cuz he is able to articulate his fears & doubts, and identify his inner-demons, calling them by name. We don't normally associate world champions with people who deal with significant inner turmoil.

Seems *anger* has been a driving force in his life (dad was alcoholic, etc.) .. and (as you know) anger can be a powerful motivator.

At this ultra-competitive level (7-time world champ), motivation becomes a key factor. Very few are able to reach the apex of their sport *7* times. Lance Armstrong did it 7 times consecutively (winning the Tour de France). Arnold won 7 Mr. Olympia titles (6 of them consecutively). What motivates (drives) this kind of person? (It's difficult to fly a kite very high when no wind is blowing.)

continued

Come to think of it, virtually *every* person I know, who is fanatical about exercise .. has some inner-demons they're dealing with. I'm not talking about the casual exercise enthusiast .. rather I'm talking about the person whose life revolves around exercise .. who is miserable to be around if they *can't* exercise.

Of course, these things didn't become apparent until I got to know the person on an intimate level. Exercise, it seems, had become their method of dealing with emotional pain.

Heck, I've used this strategy myself, running the beach at Crystal Cove .. at near full speed, for miles on end .. without ever feeling fatigue .. running off nothing but pure emotional angst, a seemingly endless supply. But I always stop the practice soon as the pain subsides (rarely lasts more than a few months).

So, now I'm curious: what percentage of world-class athletes derive their world-class motivation from some form of emotional trauma?

A similar parallel can be drawn with artists. If you research artists who have become world-renowned, you'll find their lives contain much emotional pain .. which drives them to their art, compulsively, obsessively. It's the only place they find solace. Emotional pain creates an energy, which they use to fuel their art.

In my Co-parenting classes, the instructors (PhD's) repeatedly mentioned how the ability to identify your feelings, and *articulate* them .. is HUGE (for both children and parents).

The dog is someone who is able to articulate his feelings remarkably well. I mean, he can go into the deep, dark recesses of his psyche, pull out and articulate things that ... well, that make me admire his courage. And he makes it look easy.

I was raised to ignore emotional pain. The message was: stuff it, deny it, whatever .. but for God's sake, never speak of it. And I became pretty good at it .. until I learned this practice isn't healthy (the folks got cancer & died early).

What's the old aphorism? .. cancer isn't caused by what you eat. It's caused by what's eating you. So I began to articulate my feelings. It still isn't easy, but I'm getting better (.. thanks to understanding friends).

Anyway, that's what I got from watching the Kelly Slater flick last night .. about the ups-n-downs of world-class competitive surfing. =)

For more along these lines, here is a Google search pre-configured for the query: motivation + competitive





Posted by Rad at June 30, 2006 08:14 AM

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