Sifu Rebecca Knapp, Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

By Sifu Rebecca Knapp

Adult Student’s Corner

Motivation is defined as the general desire or willingness of someone to do something; it’s a set of psychological forces that moves you to take action.

It takes a lot of motivation to be a dedicated martial artist. Motivation to sign up, to come to class consistently, to train hard while you’re here, to practice while you’re not, to work towards a grading to achieve your next sash, to endure the rigors of a grading—to stick with the journey.

One of the recent Words of the Week stated a thoughtful point about motivation—that it often comes after starting a new behavior, not before. I think there is a general perception that motivation is the result of doing something passive to ignite our motivation and move us to action—like watching a motivational video or reading an inspiring book. While this does sometimes propel us out of paralysis, something called “active inspiration” can be a far more powerful motivator. A motivation author named James Clear has this to say about active inspiration:

“…it is through the process of active inspiration—the act of creating things, applying new ideas to our goals, and making mistakes—that we discover who we are and what is important to us. Furthermore, active inspiration is what results in long term passion and enthusiasm. Watching someone else’s success might leave you feeling excited for a few minutes, but taking action and applying a new idea to your life will inspire you more than anything someone else could say.” (Clear, “The Scientific Guide on How to Get and Stay Motivated”, n.d.)

So, it could be, that motivation is more often the result of action, rather than the cause of it. That means, that getting started, even in small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum, which in turn generates more motivation, and so forth, and so on….

Some motivation gurus refer to this as the “Physics of Productivity”…like Newton’s First Law applied to habit formation: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once a task has begun, it is easier to continue moving it forward.

So learning by listening to others can certainly help you think about things in a different way, but creating, producing, experimenting and DOING is what propels you forward. Passive inspiration gives you ideas; active inspiration gives you momentum.

Another important thing to understand is that there are both extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators. In Kung Fu, an extrinsic motivator may be getting a black sash, winning an achievement award, being physically fit, or impressing your friends and family. An intrinsic motivator may be a feeling of accomplishment and achievement, knowing you are able to defend yourself, feeling strong and capable, taking care of your body, and feeling good about doing something productive and sticking with it. Understanding your motivators is an important key to success.

Part 2 on Motivation will address how to get motivated, and how to stay motivated in the long run.