Becoming more than ‘Just Enough’

A a coach, I would relish someone coming to me and presenting with the situation that I laid out in the post of 2 days ago. Therefore, it is up to me to take a look at it as dispassionately as possible and come up with a plan.

I identify a few questions straight away:

  • What is the goal? (How? By when? Relevance? Why??)
  • What is the motivation? (Achievement? Fear of Failure?)
  • How is the individual motivated? (McLelland’s Theory of Human Motivation) How can I exploit that?


So, what is the Goal and why?

I want to be competitive at CrossFit. I believe that in order to be a good leader / coach / motivator in a given field, the coach must demonstrate competence and ability in order to have credibility. Certainly, I have no desire to be Rich Froning and compete at the CrossFit Games but I set myself a target of reaching the top 25% at the CrossFit Open 2015. I achieved top 33% this year and I believe that a push in to the top 25% is achievable and realistic. I believe that being able to hold that standard demonstrates to those you are coaching that you have crediblity backed up by ability. Perhaps in following years I will wish to advance further but for now my goal remains to achieve a top 25% finish at the CrossFit Open 2015. I therefore have from now until mid-Feb 2015 to begin to make a change.

What is the motivation?

If I look historically at the areas I have succeeded in, I am able to look at what got me across the line in the end.

My Commando Course is perhaps a very good example to begin with. I have wanted my Green Lid since I was very young. Had the ruling for colour perception requirements been different back then, I would have turned right instead of left in the careers office and would have applied to join the Royal Marines. As it was, my inability to tell a red light from a green light at range meant that I applied to join the Army as an Officer and, to be honest, my heart was never really in it. I have always wanted to serve my country (this has been a burning desire of mine forever and continues to be so) but I never really felt part of the Army. When the opportunity to transfer came up, I knew it was the right thing to do. Attending the Commando Course wasn’t exactly easy, however. There were moments when the “lazyman” raised his head and I felt like just walking away from it; my desire to pass kept me in the game but it wasn’t as strong as the fear of returning to my Unit in Scotland without that Commando qualification. The fear of failure was very strong for that period.

Going back to University, I picked the wrong degree from the outset, after picking the wrong A-Levels. I accept some blame but really, was there noone out there who could see that I was definitely not suited to Genetics?! Where was my advisor in all this??? Still, I picked ridiculous A-Levels and then a foolish degree that I had no personal interest nor investment in; I then struggled relentlessly. I knew at the time and I still know now that had I applied myself then I could have passed with a better grade than I did. However, I chose rugby, a social life and anything else to occupy my time instead. When it came to getting over that line, the fear of letting my parents and family down was what won me over. The  fear of failure pushed me to act at the death and got me my 2:2. I remember exactly where I was when the result came in and the feeling not of joy and elation but of utter, unburdening relief not to have failed.

In November 2011, I was given the opportunity to undertake my first ever marathon. In fact, I was given 10 days notice and am most definitely not a runner. I had no gauge for success and so picked a pace that I could just keep up throughout, achieving a 3:59:28 in the process. What motivated me? I had just begun a new job in an HQ in Afghanistan and everyone believed that just because I was a Royal Marine I was therefore exceptionally fit. There was considerable fear of bursting that bubble because…..I rather enjoyed that perception.

There are other examples but for whatever reason (and as a coach I am interested in the psychology of this so please, if anyone reads this, let me know) I am motivated by a terrible negative rather than the positivity of success. This will only ever push someone to work just hard enough not to have failed and will never motivate them to achieve their potential. When I compare that to my fantastic cousin who recently achieved blanket A*s across the board in her GCSEs (some of which she sat a year early), I am clearly contrasted against her ability to motivate herself to high-flying success.

So, what drives me? Fear of Failure. I MUST use this in the short term but need to find a way beyond this as it will not get me far. Visualisaton of positive outcomes? Remembering the feeling of success and channeling that? I have achieved many things in the past, things that I am very proud of. I have to think about those.

How am I motivated?

McLelland believes that humans are motivated by 3 things; power (nPow), affiliation (nAff) and achievement (nAch). From previous work, I know that I am more motivated by achievements and affiliation than by power. That is to say that I need to work towards goals but that I am likely to be more motivated if those goals are part of a wider effort and not just for my own ends (fear of failure as a driver again?). In this context, I need to be a part of a team in order to really get the most out of myself.

So how do I use this to achieve my aims?

I believe that I need to be a part of a team in order to feel that sense of responsibility to others and the wider effort. I respond to the fear of failure but this cannot be a sole driver; I have to see some success, relish it and thrive on it. I have signed up for CrossFit Plymouth and on return from this little trip coming up, I shall attend at least twice per week. I plan to be part of one of their teams and get a few competitions under my belt. I think that these factors will definitely help me achieve my aims and I will see success in CF Open 15.



  1. Having read through both of your entries now, and having taken the time to reflect on what you have written, I feel I am able to offer you a response.

    “Fear of Failure” is a prime motivator and should be embraced as a good thing. As an example, when someone is trying to stop smoking or loose weight the experts all agree that an individual should share this information with family, friends and colleagues in order to drum up support but also to have a motivator is place – and that motivator is ……. fear of failure.

    As a coach myself I have often used the ‘fear of failure’ to drive my athletes to the next level and I also occupy this approach to myself every day.

    What has to be considered though is the ‘consequence’ within the motivator (fear) as to what happens if failure results and this is where everything has to be put into context.

    In your circumstance as an athlete trying to achieve a very high standard within your sport you have actually moved beyond using fear of failure as a motivator as the consequence of failure is now minimal and probably only results is embarrassment. But reflect on your Commando course – fear of failure drove you over the line to success, no matter how marginal that success was it is still a success and the outcome was achieved – the green lid.

    What you are looking for is the next motivator and to identify this you perhaps need to review your goals to select the one or two that are ultimately the most important for you and assess what failure to achieve them will mean to you – there has to be a degree of ‘fear to achieve’ to energize whatever you will use as your next motivator.

    Remember though, that as you have come along your life’s journey you have not been alone and there have been those around you with a vested interest in your development and even though you may have felt that there was no-one to guide you on occasions I can assure you that advise was often given on choices but, at the end of the day, the choices have always been yours. Likewise, in your search for the next level of motivation, it is right that you should seek input and now, with the benefit of age and experiences behind you, you are better able to listen, evaluate and decide on the choice to be made to help you achieve the athletic standard you have set your sights on.

    Sometimes though all you may need is a hero and inspiration – will I fit the bill 🙂

    UDRM xx


  2. I’ve only just been able to log in to approve and comment on this, my apologies (it’s supposed to self-authorise but perhaps I stopped that just in case of of mentalists).

    Thank you for your words and yes, you have guided me along the path. There’s only so much a parent can do (as I am sure to find out) when contesting against the sheer scale and volume of other influences out there and we are the sum of our experiences.

    As a coach, I am fascinated by motivation and self-motivation is even more interesting. Right now, I am motivated, driven and working hard (I think) across my little spectrum out here. Sometimes, for whatever reason, things overwhelm and you start to slow down. It’s then about identifying what really matters and focusing on that. As much as I want it to be sport and have always wanted to be good at sport, it’s never really been the case because it’s never been so important that I am willing to prioritise it above other things when time is limited and resources low.

    The trouble then is identifying what really makes me ‘me’ and what truly motivates me. That is something we all struggle with and sometimes I find it hard.

    But thank you. We’ll no doubt talk about this more in a few weeks. UDRM x


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