Across centuries of human civilization, there has been one characteristic that allowed for its survival: social connection.
Beyond war, disease, famine, and hardship, human civilization prevailed to become what it is today. As more psychological theories emerge to form what we think we know about the human psyche, one clear indicator has shown to prove its strength time and time again. ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ or so the cliche saying goes, and however cheesy it may sound it still rings undeniable truth. Motivation is a hard thing to keep alive on your own and without the help of those around us, there is a good to fair chance that the survival of inspiration in many is co-linked to the friends and family surrounding them. As teamwork was once the main determinant of survival when civilization began.
Before recent research, it was believed that there were two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Published in ‘Contemporary Educational Psychology’, it is believed that extrinsic motivation is linked to accomplishing a task with the intent of receiving an external reward. Examples of extrinsic motivation are: exercising to lose weight, getting on work on time to avoid pissing off your boss or working at a specific job just because of the perks it gives. This type of motivation can rewake your inspiration to recommit to a goal due to the independent reward it may give. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is an inherent satisfaction that is focused on the fun or challenge a goal may give as opposed to the external reward. It’s doing something that drives an internal sense of purpose because it feels good to you. Like going on a run because you enjoy the breath of fresh air instead of running because you want to lose weight or working a job because you enjoy the experience it gives you as opposed to working for the salary.
Now the third type of motivation has emerged. And as mentioned before the two types of motivation were thought to be the only part of the mentality balance, but luckily the good news is that if neither of these types helps you get the job done, there is a third type of motivation: family motivation. Which has always existed but has recently turned heads in the field of modern-day psychology. Family motivation is the desire to provide for the people you care about. Now the term is edged towards blood-related persons, but don’t make a mistake in thinking that your friends aren’t a form of family or that the desire to provide for people who can’t provide for themselves can’t be tied into family motivation. The idea is more simple than that, family motivation entails connecting your individual goals with that of the people around you.
In a study published in the Academy of Management Journal, a group of factory workers were observed to figure out what kept them motivated. In the absence of intrinsic or extrinsic motivations in a routine-based mundane job, these workers were more motivated than most and managed to stay that way consistently. It was found that even though each factory worker didn’t find their job enjoyable and had no financial incentive to work harder (as this job didn’t provide bonuses), day in day out they would wake up at 5am and show up in time for the sake of their loved ones.
Those who identified strongly with the statement ‘I care about supporting my family’ were shown to be more energized and performed better than those who lacked family motivation. The special thing is that family motivation is fluid and can be linked to both intrinsic and extrinsic inspiration. If a family is a top priority it will be more intrinsic, and if you feel pressure or obligation from your family it becomes an extrinsic motivator. The trick is making yourself understand that the world is your family, find the people you would work hard for every day and tie them to your goals. And for the lonely people out there, link your goals to your social desires. If you want that perfect girlfriend or boyfriend, work hard for her/him every day even if they don’t exist. If you keep your head up, one day they will exist. And if you motivated yourself day in/day out for the ghost of your future relationships, the day it occurs you’ll be more than ready for it.
A study composed by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, researched how confidence is tied with group membership. The study comprised of groups of children, elderly and formerly homeless people in the U.K., China, and Australia. As the study showed it doesn’t matter what the person’s background is, higher levels of confidence were demonstrated in the subjects who belonged to one or more groups. But here two groups emerged: those who were engaged with groups tied with their social identity and those who had a lot of separate friends. “Groups often have rich value and belief systems, and when we identify with groups, these can provide a lens through which we see the world.” Jetten, lead author of the study. People who can self-identify with religious, cultural, ethnic or hobby groups, essentially give people a sense of purpose which further inspires confidence and motivation.
The perks of group motivation have been shown to be:
- Experience better mental health
- Live healthier
- Live longer
Those who lead ‘lonely’ lives:
- Negative mental health
- Higher risk of early death
- Heart diseases
Recent research has clearly been able to show that it’s not just your own internal voice that contributes to confidence-building. But that social connections affect your behavior more than one might think. When it comes to improving your mindset, in terms of motivation and self-esteem, reaching out to people and enhancing your social connections will prove to have a greater effect than internal growth.
Regardless of the facts that training together essentially helps build your athletic mindset, it is important to acknowledge one thing. At the end of the day, no matter what sport or anything that requires motivation to complete, you will always be in a situation where you need to pull yourself up. This is where the men are separated from the boys and the girls from the women. Understandably one must use the tools in their direct environment to summon the motivation to pursue athletic goals. Partnerships and working together is a great tool to use to keep you going.
However, always keep in mind your own underlying motivations. Why are you at the gym? Why do you want to become fitter? Or why do you need to push yourself?… what is it that you REALLY want to achieve? Find that source of renewable energy and intertwine it with everything and everyone you hold dear. Let’s say your goal is to become fitter so you can enjoy life a little more… great. Now take that goal and throw it in the partner mix and turn it into: I want to become fitter so I can keep up with my children. Or I want to become fitter so that I can look and feel confident enough to find my soulmate. IF the essence of your goal is fitted into someone else’s life, all of a sudden it isn’t only you, you are training for.
Essentially you are training because you want to better yourself for the world around you. And making your training schedule feel like the world depends on it, is the ultimate way to summon the will to make a difference. Like Jordan Peterson preaches, “You have two options: you can either choose that you hold no responsibility for the things you do and do nothing about it or you can choose that everything matters and that everything that is in your life is your responsibility.” If you find yourself in a demotivated bubble, step out for a minute and try to identify your intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. And if that doesn’t work, tie in your goals with the people around you. Family motivation may well be your last resort but it’s guaranteed to work if you care about the people you’re linking the motivation to.