Motivation: A refined approach

“This song sucks.” I stopped and listened for what he was talking about. Some Top 40 song came on just as we were about to attempt a 5RM effort on front squats. Sunshine is a high school junior, with hair that’d make you think he was trying out for the beach boys, who plays QB for his high school football team, and is nicknamed as such. I’ve been working with him for about a month now and to say he was a novice in the weight room when he first started would be an understatement. I mean Peewee Herman could have competed with Sunshine’s max effort push up numbers his first day at the facility.

Like many others I was home for the holidays which for me is in snowy Syracuse, NY. This is my first time having to travel back for the holidays seeing as I moved to southern Connecticut about 5 months ago. One of the things I brought back was a copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch. First off I’m about 50 pages in and seriously this thing is chalk full of useful information. If you are in any industry where it is helpful to understand people’s behavior and how to influence it, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Okay back to Sunshine and his taste in music.

Before I met him, at least 4 people during separate incidences went out of their way to tell me be careful of this kid, he has no motivation, he doesn’t like to work, and I need to keep a short leash to ensure he stays focused. I didn’t introduce myself to him with these preconceived notions though. Instead I took a passive approach, observing mostly and didn’t create much conversation during his first week. I saw how some people could label him lazy with a lack of direction, but far from what I was led to believe before meeting him.

So what did I observe?

Turns out music is one of the first things he notices when he’s in the facility. He also has a very specific long term goal: Use the rest of this year and next year to add significant size and strength to be considered for collegiate football.

So what do I do?

I make sure 50 cent Pandora is on every time he’s in the building and I lay out his short term goals CONSTANTLY. He needs to gain weight, so a popular question during warm up is “What did you have for breakfast today? And lunch? Are you drinking water? Getting enough sleep? What’s the square root of Pi? What’s the secret to world peace?!” You know, the pertinent stuff.

I knew all I had to do was appeal to his elephant.

Our personality is split into 2 parts (I’m going real basic here), rational and emotional. Different psychologists have different names for these 2 competing sides. The Heath brothers have coined the comparison of an elephant and its rider. The elephant being the emotional side which the driving force behind our actions. Its downfall comes with being so strong and sometimes cannot be controlled by the rider. The rider is the rational side which knows all the right decisions, but can over analyze matters, spin its wheels, and get nothing done.

Sunshine’s rider wasn’t the problem. He knew he needed to consume more calories than he burned every day. He knew he needed to start lifting consistently (over 1 year of dedicated lifting to reach his long term goal). His problem was his pesky elephant would lead him to parties at least twice a week which in turn would set back training a day or two not to mention it’s pretty difficult to create a calorie surplus when your hungover. Plus he never really enjoyed the weight room.

As a development coach, we need to understand the role a certain training environment plays. At Combine Training we are the best part of our client’s day, every day. I can’t tell you how important this is for building relationships and creating a stress-relief haven for our clients to escape to.

Engage the elephant, allow the rider just enough time to make a decision, then act on it!

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