Do you know that feeling of frustration after you lose to a team that you know you could have beaten, that nagging sensation in the back of your mind that makes you feel nothing but the desire to play that opponent again to get the satisfaction of a victory? Or, do you ever see your favorite athletes play like their lives depend on it against a team that was supposed to handle them easily? The players compete with the chip the size of a boulder on their shoulder; they have something to prove. A team’s motivation to win is something that can never be overlooked, especially when that team is the underdog.
A painful example that I must bring into this conversation about motivation is the New York Giants’ unexpected victory in Super Bowl XLII. The New England Patriots, after winning all 16 regular-season games, the divisional game, and the AFC Conference Championship, faced the 10-6 New York Giants in the title game. The Giants, who did not even secure first place in the NFC, handed the Patriots its first loss of the season and one of the largest upsets in Super Bowl history. This Super Bowl, marked by one of the most improbable and spectacular catches of all time by David Tyree, was clinched by a team that was told that it couldn’t beat the Patriots because after all, no one had beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots that year. Yet, the Giants’ players and coaching staff turned that criticism into motivation and pulled off the impossible.
How do we see such motivation in our daily lives? A simple example is schoolwork. What motivates you to do well in school? Is it the hope of getting into a good college or the hope of improving your condition in life? Is it parental pressure? Is it simply the need to fill someone’s footsteps? Whatever the reason might be, there is something that keeps us up at midnight working on that paper or studying for that test, something that continues to drive us to succeed against all odds. I find that when the work and odds are stacked against me, I use the work itself as a motivator, pushing me to work harder and more efficiently.
But motivation controls us more than we know on a day-to-day basis. The motivation to learn, to get good grades, or just to get something done gets us out of bed. The motivation to beat a personal record or an opposing team drives you to run that extra mile and complete that extra rep. The motivation to create change in our world causes leaders to stand up and rally, fight for those who may not have the ability to fight for themselves. From the moment you wake up and hit the snooze button on your alarm to the moment you rest your head on your pillow, you are being influenced by motivation. Everything we do is influenced by motivation.
How does one harness this motivation? How does one force themself to get out of bed, or run that extra mile, or stand up in front of a crowd and fight for what they believe in? It all comes down to why that person is trying to achieve something. I stay up late at night to study so when I rest my head on my pillow at night, I can tell myself that I learned something that day. Sometimes I feel motivated to prove myself wrong, to extinguish the doubt that I have in myself.
Why do you want to study? Why do you want to train harder? If you can truly find the motivation behind your actions, you can remind yourself of what you’re fighting for when times get tough. It’s important to have something tangible to hold onto when you’re getting tossed in a storm of work, whether that’s in school or in life.
I implore you to fight with a chip the size of a boulder on your shoulder, whether you are about to step onto the field, into the classroom, or onto the stage. You may surprise yourself with what that little voice in the back of your head can help you accomplish.