Often, we make the excuse that if we were “motivated enough” to go to the gym to lift weights, shoot extra free throws after practice, or run that extra mile on the track, we could achieve our goals of being a better athlete or achieve a greater level of fitness. However, motivation is a resource that we all possess. According to Merriam-Webster (2014), motivation is defined as “the condition of being eager to act or work.” Motivation is comparable to a feeling of desire, or a psychological state. All individuals can experience an emotion such as desire. A critical distinction can be made between the condition of motivation, and the process of achievement – a process known as committed action.
Committed action is exhibited when an individual consistently demonstrates the specific behaviors needed to result in optimal performance (Gardner & Moore, 2007). Committed action is a result of acting in service of personal values. Values are the desired qualities an individual wants to possess and display (Harris, 2009). Values can help guide our behavior in any given situation. For example, we may choose to take a few extra backhand strokes after practice to work on our tennis shot, in order to achieve our personal value of becoming a more well-rounded tennis player.
Values-driven behavior, or committed action, is easiest when conditions favor acting in service of one’s personal performance demands. When your coach offers you incentives for working towards your values, such as offering more playing time in the upcoming match for making a certain percentage of your shots, it is easy to choose to practice your jump shot in order to make a higher percentage so that you can play more. However, think about a situation in which there is no directly observable external reward, and when other conditions are unfavorable like having a low level of energy, bad weather, or not having the amount of time desired. In these situations, many people may feel that a “low level of motivation” was a reason for not practicing. Instead, one could propose that bringing personal values to the forefront of his mind would provide ample motivation.
In each and every situation, there will be some reason not to act in accordance with values. Fatigue, weather conditions, time limitations, anger, frustration, anxiety, and other factors can constantly serve as barriers to values-driven behavior. In these situations, it is critical to keep in mind your personal performance values when choosing how to behave. This may involve running several more sprints even though you are exhausted, sacrificing time with others in order to train, or choosing to stay late or come early to practice. It is critical to realize that is not these thoughts, emotions, or influences that are preventing you from committed action; rather, it is your reaction to these events. The key here is act in accordance with your values while being able to tolerate negative thoughts, emotions, and influences, a concept known as poise (Gardner and Moore, 2007).
In order to engage in values-driven behavior, it can be helpful to write down your personal performance values. After specifying your values, think of some short-term and long-term goals that are associated with your performance values. Remember to keep in mind the acronym S.M.A.R.T. when setting your goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, and should serve as a set of guidelines when creating goals. Goals should be clear, assessable, realistic, appropriate, and time-bound (Meyer, 2003).
For example, a basketball player may wish to improve his or her shooting ability. Using S.M.A.R.T. goals as a guide, the player would specify that his or her free throw percentage would be the target, and that making a specific number out of 10 would be the measurement. Realistically, the player would plan on making 7 out of 10 free throws, and that the goal is relevant to shooting because free throw shots are a part of the game. Then, the player would plan on improving his or her free throw percentage to 70% by the end of the month.
Finally, think of behaviors in specific situations that will act in service of your goals and values. Begin by planning out the actions you will take when faced with certain obstacles such as thoughts, emotions, and influences. This will allow you to remain cognizant of your values when put in those situations. Next, seek out performance situations that will test your ability to engage in committed action. Finally, reflect on your ability to act in a values-driven way in performance situations, and adjust your specific behaviors or goals as need be.
Committed action is a necessary process for achieving your personal performance goals. Writing down your values, goals, and the specific behaviors you will engage in can be a useful way to track your performance desires. By defining and keeping yourself deliberately aware of your performance goals, you will be able to perform in a way that will help you become more successful, be that on the field, court, track, or gym.