Maintaining Motivation in BJJ
retraining the brain to stay focused on goals
How one keeps motivated to pursue their goals varies. There are many strategies that people will utilize in order to keep motivated and to remain on task. According to research, most people will rely on will power to stay the course, keep their resolutions and reach their goals. This conscious discipline uses a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for such actions like moderation of social activity, construction of the behaviors responsible for maintaining internal goals, decision making and the general personality of an individual. Where many people may start off strong and disciplined in regards to sticking with their goals, the cognitive ability to maintain this drive may become overworked and resolutions begin to falter and ultimately fail as the prefrontal cortex becomes overwhelmed with external stressors. Studies have shown that there are better methods to try and maintain the motivation required for reaching goals. Researchers have suggested that a much better method is to connect positive emotions with new habits in order to retrain the brain and form new behavioral patterns. The more neural pathways that connect good emotions and endocrine releases, the more the brain and body begin to view these activities that cause these emotions and hormonal releases as favorable and you will actually strive to perform them to experience this positive feeling. This is ultimately a biological impetus for behavioral change. The problem is that often we get stressed in life and the areas of the brain that are responsible for maintaining our commitment to staying disciplined and reaching goals becomes over loaded and we ultimately fall back into old habits. When we are upset or stressed we will desire an instant fix which is why things like cigarettes, fast food and other vices replace the activities that pay dividends in the long run. Maintaining the focus to stay motivated in anything, let alone Jiu Jitsu requires a constant effort. It is an endurance event, not a sprint. Setting measurable goals will allow a system of emotionally gratifying rewards when certain benchmarks are met. A detailed plan of goals will take this into account as well as what to do when you stumble along the way. For example, one might have a goal to make class 4 times a week and workout 4 times a week. Maybe they miss one of those days. A good system will have a contingency plan to work out on the off day or double up on another day twice that week to make up for the lost sessions. Otherwise, it could signal the beginning of the end if you allow missed opportunities with not addressing the setbacks and fall into old patterns and bad habits. Preplanning will help to develop a plan of attack that can address many of the unknowns and facilitate success.
We need to be constantly reminded of our goals. When surveying highly successful people and athletes, one thing that they all share is the fact that they will always reaffirm their goals and dreams and this helps them stay motivated and focused on their long term plans. Perhaps you are focused enough that a single post it note will suffice in reminding you. Other people may need to create a motivational wall in their bedroom with posters and phrases and the listed goals highlighted to help push them every day. Whatever method you find works best for your personality, having the goals clearly defined and written down will guarantee you don’t lose track of that which was important enough to be written down. Stanford University Professor, Dr. Barbara Shiv recommends changing the way you think in order to maintain the focus needed to implement such change and maintain behaviors conducive towards reaching established goals. Visualize yourself as a champion every time you begin a difficult running set. If while you envision yourself atop the winner’s podium, you will begin to assign positive feelings towards a difficult step in your conditioning program and you may no longer begin to dread it, but value it for what it is going to help you accomplish. If emotional stimuli accompany the behaviors needed to reach goals, then the odds of continuation of such behaviors increase significantly. On the other hand, picture yourself losing every time that you engage in a behavior detrimental towards your goals and you will begin to assign negative emotional thoughts to that which will cause you to derail from your intended goal. This will allow your brain to automatically feel a certain way towards a certain activity even when your prefrontal cortex is too exhausted to maintain the focus and drive it would normally take to stay disciplined. Staying prepared in all aspects of your life, you’ll have a chance to reduce normal daily stress which will help to prevent a derailment of the motivation needed to work towards Jiu Jitsu goals.