Motivation vs. Commitment

Posted by Jared Shumate on Aug 4th 2022

Motivation vs. Commitment

I had always heard rumors about athletes experiencing a post-Olympic slump but thought that the slump was reserved for athletes who finished 4th or barely missed out on making the Olympic team. I was happy with my performances at the 2022 Beijing Olympics after having my best results all season at the biggest sporting event in the world, and I remember crossing the finish line at the last Olympic race and thinking to myself (or maybe saying it out loud to my coaches) that I was going to come back and win a medal in 2026. I certainly wasn’t in a slump and at the end of the Olympics and through the rest of the season I was super motivated and excited to put in another 4 years of work to come back and win a medal the next time around. It wasn’t until I started summer training that I recognized that I may in fact have been in a post-Olympic slump.

I had an enjoyable off season and took more time off from structured training than I ever have in my career. I thought that as soon as it was time to hunker down and start training seriously again that my motivation would be there and I would be fired up to give it 100% at every training session, but that wasn’t the case. I was still going to training, but it was more like I was going through the motions of training rather than training to get better. It took me a few weeks of full-time training to recognize that I was unmotivated, which led me to talk to my sports psychologist about where I was at mentally. 

Team Olympic Rings

The conversation that I had with my sports psychologist was one of the most beneficial conversations I’ve ever had with her, and my main takeaway that I want to share with all of you is that there is a difference between motivation and commitment. Motivation is what gets you excited to train and work hard to achieve your goals, but it isn’t always clear what your motivation is. When the motivation is missing, you’ve got to rely on your commitment to what you’re doing to get you out of bed in the morning. The morning before I talked with my psychologist, I had done a miserable 5x15 minute interval session alone in the heat and the wind and did not have a good time. When she asked me why I did it, I said “I honestly don’t know why”. For me, I didn’t have a motivation for training which made going out and doing an interval session a real struggle, both mentally and physically. But from that, the conversation turned to be about commitment, and how you can have commitment even without motivation. Even when you don’t know why you’re doing something, in my case training for Nordic combined, it is commitment that makes you continue to work towards your goals. I know that I’m committed to becoming a better athlete but wasn’t sure why. Even without the reason why, being committed to skiing was enough of a reason to get me out of bed in the morning to go to training. Although having a motivation drives you to be better, commitment is what will keep you responsible for your training. This conversation that we had made me realize that commitment to my sport is engrained in me and is what will keep me continuing to train for another Olympic cycle.

So, my big philosophical revelation that I want to share with you all is that motivation and commitment are both important but separate. So, even when you feel unmotivated to train, focus on the commitment you have to your goals and hopefully you end up ok!