Finding Self-Motivation at any Age

I was at a wake the other day. One of those slightly uncomfortable events, not because it was a wake, but because I didn’t know the woman who had passed. I was introduced to a great many people who seemed to have a genuine love for Debra, the woman who passed. Though I knew I would fail a test (if they took it) at the end of the wake as to the names of all the people I was introduced to, their stories were so rich and heartwarming I was able to get a sense of her.

There was a very nice shrine of photos, and right away I noticed her great love of the outdoors by the huge amount of hiking and road biking photos. A woman came up from behind me to gaze at the pictures as well. She said that she was a relative, and used to go biking with Debra when she was trying to quit smoking. “Debra was a smoker?” I said, in half disbelief after seeing all the photos. “No. I was, and Debra would pull me out on the trails or on a ride, whenever I wanted to light up.” We proceeded to talk about Debra’s love for biking, my running race that was coming up the next day, and a road race that she just decided to enter. It was at that moment that an older gentleman standing nearby introduced himself, shook my hand, and said he overheard our talk about running, biking, hiking, etc.

Older gentleman to both of us – I just want to know how you two find the motivation to go running. When I was a younger man and I used to run cross country for my high school but after that I just kind of faded off.  

Me (half chuckling) – Yeah, I coach Middle School Cross Country and I get the same question from parents from time to time.

I was bringing my water up to my mouth to take a sip. He was looked at me as if waiting for an answer, so I promptly took the cup away from my mouth.

Me – When you were in cross country, the things that motivated you where external to you.

He continued to wait, now looking at me inquisitively.

Me – When you ran in high school you ran because didn’t want to let your team down, is that right?

He nodded his head, looking down, smiling.

Me – You might have also run because you didn’t want to let down your coach down.

Again, he nodded his head ‘yes.’

Me –Both are great motivators, but they are only helpful to you as long as they’re there. When you left high school, you didn’t get to take your motivation with you.

Older gentleman (laughing a bit and looking bewildered) – I really never thought of it that way.

He said he was 66 years old, had arthritis in both of his knees, and he was considering double knee replacements, but was afraid he wouldn’t recover well.

Me – Do you love running?

Older Gentleman – No.

Me – What do you love?

Older Gentleman – Biking. I really love to bike, but my knees hurt when I do that too.

Me – YOUR motivation is to make a full recovery so you can bike. It’s what you love, and when you actually get that knee replacement, start the PT, get up early in the morning, plop your feet down on your bedroom floor, you’re going to KNOW that that the reward at the end of the tunnel is for you to be able to do the one thing you absolutely love to do! Bike!

The man’s energy shifted. He seemed lighter, and happy. We talked a few more moments. As I finally turned to go he shook my hand and said a very sincere, ‘thank you.’ His wife came over just as I was leaving and he insisted on an introduction. He told his wife he was excited about his biking again and that I pumped him up to go out, get off his butt, and get his knee replacements. I said it sounded like he found his own motivation to get back to Florida and do whatever was necessary to get back on his bike.

As I headed out towards my car I was happy to have gotten a small glimpse into a wonderful woman’s life, and meet her fine friends. She was loving, athletic, and made a difference in in the lives of many people. I was also very grateful to have met a man who just needed a catalyst; to have been able to remind him that the things we are most passionate about are the best catalysts to motivate us to do the things we aren’t crazy about in order to get to the things we love.