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Motivation: Part 2 – Good Pain

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Many martial artists I know discuss this concept of ‘good pain’ – pain that comes from training hard and sacrificing certain things, but in doing so that also means you progress and improve yourself. Thisdoesn’tmean we’re all masochists, but it means we are willing to sacrifice something to work on our art and develop better mental toughness…and occasionally we might pick up a few bruises along the way!

One of my instructors came up to me during a particularly difficult session recently and gave me an extremely motivational mini pep talk. I often train with much more experienced people and he explained that despite seeming to struggle against them now, in the long run I will become a much better player for it, and when I fight others my grade and weight the difference will be much greater. My brother told me a similar story of how one of his instructors, when he first started out, used to specifically request to train with the best black belts in the session every class despite being a white belt. After being thrown about, tapped out and beaten up for months…he once was able to get in a move against one of the black belts. I don’t mean even that he beat the black belt. I’m just talking about that small moment when you realise that it is no longer 100-nil but 100-1 as you manage to off-balance or gain an advantage over your opponent unexpectedly. Slowly, those moments happen more and more. Slowly, you realise you are improving. Now that is motivating for me. It’s not fast, but it’s effective and if you’ve been training for years and finally push through the resistance you’ve been battling with for months and are able to pull off that technique then YES is it worth it.

A friend of mine asked me recently “Why deny yourself anything? Why not live for the moment? What is the end goal? Why do you really want to achieve that thing you’re training for, what is the actual motivation behind it?” He seemed trying to suggest that everyone only makes these sacrifices due to some unnecessary subconscious reason and that it’s not worth denying yourself any pleasure to get there. I simply feel that he, however, does not understand the satisfaction that doing something like this gives you. There is nothing quite like sacrificing something to achieve more in the long run – especially if you’ve got an end goal in sight to spur you on.

Sacrifice, of course, is not necessary for motivation. I am clearly not saying that you’re not motivated if you don’t give up chocolate. I think it’s just a topic that is worth taking time to truly consider. Ask yourself ‘What really does motivate me?’ The thought of doing well in exams? Personally, no. I’m annoying and do well in exams and essays with little preparation. Where therefore is my motivation? The fear of consequences? Perhaps, yes. Tim Ferriss often says ‘the stick motivates people much more than the carrot’, and I agree. Especially if that stick is simply telling all your friends your goal so they can laugh at you if you don’t do it. I have told all my friends about my competition not out of arrogance but mainly so that I cannot chicken out when it comes near.

The real question for me is simply ‘What will make me sacrifice something to achieve?’ Not only does this question tell me what I want to achieve so badly that I will sacrifice something for it, but it also makes me question exactly what I’m willing to sacrifice to achieve it. Go ahead and test yourself. You may just be motivated to do something about it.