Internal and External Motivation


As an athlete, there are two transformations that have had a powerful influence over me:

  • Slow to fast
  • Fat to fit

Most everyone that I come in contact with has a belief system that faster, and fitter, is always better. We rarely see people making the decision that they are fast enough, or fit enough. More common is a realization that the drive to become fast & fit has become unhealthy and people leave their sport.

Collectively, we give honors to the fast and fit – so they must be good things, right? Like most things, it depends. 

These honors, and the feelings associated with them, lead many of us to make external traits part of our internal identity. Because ethical strength and internal health are hidden from view, there are risks associated with devloping core beliefs surrounding the goodness of winning, low body fat and a year-round tan.

I put the photos up as they speak for themselves. While I am different, I’m also not different. My external appearance, and abilities, have transformed across the years but my internal life has been much more stable.

Triathlon has be a vehicle for physical change but it has also provided an environment for self-discovery. What are our true internal drivers? They might include:

  • Respect from our peers
  • Proving we are worthy of love – the deeper version of “I want people to like me”
  • Self-esteem
  • Full blown exercise addiction – every single aspect of my life improves with frequent moderate exercise

It’s worth considering our deeper motivators because time, and our bodies, will set a limit on how long we can base our identity on winning, beauty and speed.

My peers that age the best have ultimately come to realize, and address, their internal motivators.

For me, that’s the true value of athletics.