Motivating the Best, Motivating the Rest

June 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

Motivation carrot stick

In Chip Brown’s wonderful portrait about Tiger Woods, It’s Good to Be Immortal, the New York Times journalist makes reference to a story in which Michael Jordan, a good friend of Woods, said he (Jordan) was “driven to win because somebody might be watching for the first time.” 

What motivates Tiger?, Brown wanted to know. Woods said, “I don’t see how you can live with yourself not trying and not giving your best. I don’t see how you can go home and say, ‘I didn’t give it my best.’ People do that. I don’t know how they do that. That to me is unacceptable.”

If pride in a job well-done is not enough to help you achieve peak physical performance, Men’s Health magazine, home to “tons of useful stuff,” offers 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout. Some of the tips are Duh!, such as “Don’t do what you hate.”

Some, no matter how “motivating,” feed off of fear and insecurity, including “Ask your wife/partner make a list of your most displeasing physical characteristic… Make the most-hated body part your workout focus for 4 weeks, then repeat the quiz for more motivation.”

A couple are really useful, even if an echo of what you’ve read on various message boards, including competing/racing (not just training) and registering for an event that is a few states away. Paying — now! — for the registration fees, hotel rooms, airplane tickets, and car rental will certainly be an incentive to train. (Sometimes the best motivation affects the pocketbook.)

But my favorite tip, included maybe half in jest but certainly a unique and effective technique, is number 20 on the list: Blackmail yourself.

Take a picture of yourself shirtless, holding a sign that shows your e-mail address. Then e-mail it to a trusted but sadistic friend, with the following instructions: “If I don’t send you a new picture that shows serious improvement in 12 weeks, post this photo at and send the link to the addresses listed below….” (Include as many e-mail addresses — especially of female acquaintances — as possible.) “It’s nasty, but extremely effective,” says [fitness trainer] Alwyn Cosgrove.

Hey, whatever works.

Play, think…
J.R. Atwood 


Entry filed under: play. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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