Back in high school, when I started going to the gym to lift weights regularly, a read a cautionary bit of advise in a magazine: motivation [for training] is easy to get, but difficult to maintain. This is true for practically everything, not just sports. But simply knowing this helps to prepare and compensate for flagging motivation.
One motivation-inducing concept that resonates for me personally is working on something that I think would last a long time. Actually, most things I do fall into this category: doing research and writing papers about it, teaching, drawing, photography. Playing with my daughter is there too.
Tim Urban nicely described the concept of transcending time by raising children in his blog post about Elon Musk. Elon reportedly views people as computers, hardware being the physical body and brain and software being the things people learn throughout their lives. In this framework, our children are one-half of ourselves in terms of their hardware, and we have a unique opportunity to contribute to development of their software by spending time with them.
Interestingly, this mind trick of convincing myself that I am working on something potentially long-lasting doesn’t work for personal development things, sports included. Old Japanese kendo sensei like asking novices, especially foreigners, “Why did you begin practicing kendo?” I think a more difficult question would be: “Why do you continuing practicing?” For me, habits really help here. Often, I go to practice simply because I’ve been doing for a long time. And then, another truism kicks in: motivation follows action.
Habits are also dangerous, of course. if you do something mindlessly long enough, you lose the sight of what made you start in the first place. With lifting weights, I had exactly that experience a few years ago. What helped me shake this off was the fact that I injured my back and could not do my regular exercises. At that time, we were on vacation in Venice Beach, staying at an Airbnb for the first time. The place was owned by a young lady, who had lots of books on healthy lifestyle, fitness, etc. I must be in California after all, I thought. Also, the nearby Muscle Beach was bit of a holy land for me, because of it’s association with Arnold Schwarzenegger, my childhood hero. So I saw all the people, from muscleheads hanging out in the gym to wannabe Hollywood starlets shopping for healthy foods at the local supermarket, who were so different, but for whom dedication to physical training was obviously a core trait. I didn’t find any role models there per se, but I my motivation to thoughtfully train and a sense of fun of daily exercise was definitely renewed.
Perhaps, I need watch more kendo videos on YouTube or go through my favourite samurai movies?