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Letter from the DEA Founder to the DEA Family, 10/22/2018

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The common conversation this week has been the subject of motivating the kids (and ourselves).

While I try to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with every new DEA family, the subject can be difficult to expand on in the few minutes we have during the ‘get to know each other’ orientation.

Contrary to popular belief, the primary focus of DEA is not to keep creating top athletes in your respective specialties. That success is just an added benefit and stems largely from the fact that we create an environment that expects achievement like 3.0 GPA minimums. The primary goal is really to create future leaders. We use athletics and academics as tools to accomplish that goal.

Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual. For my purposes, the key consideration is “praise.” There is a fine line for money, fame, and grades where each of those can be considered external rewards. But they can also be simple measuring tools for goal setting for someone with a strong mind and sense of intrinsic motivation. My ideal goal is to remove most influences of extrinsic valuation from training. With schools, coaches and even video games doing it, families are getting more than they can handle. One more 'good job' from me isn't going to make them into something new and better. Asking how THEY feel about their performance, challenging THEM to decide how much to push themselves, might. Those are brain training exercises I can handle.

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you.

Each of you has heard me talk about positivity. I usually sum my own philosophy by saying that I am never negative. I’m always positive. Unless your blocking my left driving lane. Then….

In all seriousness, we wake up, go to school and they start heaping on the atta boy’s/girls on us. It’s "good job" for this and "good job" for that. "You didn’t get your homework done? Awe, bring it to me Friday." There is virtually no focus on goal setting, personally evaluating goals not achieved, or taking next steps to achieve new goals. Heaven forbid there be an actual consequence.

I start every workout by asking, "how are your grades, how do you feel (physically), and how is your love life?" By casually approaching each of these very real subjects, the athletes relax and answer the questions openly. It probably helps that I’ll see 30 of their peers each day so their odds of putting one over on me aren’t very good;-)

"How are your grades" is an open question allowing them to self-evaluate. This is an intrinsic behavior to determine what do THEY perceive as ‘good or bad?’ They know that they are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA. They also learn to problem solve. If they have a C, they know I expect to hear them tell me how they will get the grade up to a B. If they have a B, then we may talk about the colleges they are interested in. Maybe a B is good enough to get into the U of I but MIT expects A's.

"How do you feel" is an open emotional and physical question. Coming to training may be their first opportunity to release stress. It’s fun watching every person look within themselves to evaluate how to answer. I would wager that nine times out of 10, they answer emotionally. I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m angry, and often "I don’t want to talk about it."

BTW, "I don’t want to talk about it," is almost always followed by a discussion about it;-). I never offer a solution during that conversation.

“How do you feel” transitions into “what hurts?” This takes a potential heavy emotional discussion and diffuses it. We always think of physical hurts as something we can get over. For some reason, tying the two together helps people to decide, for themselves, that they can get passed their emotional stress too. Almost nothing is more introspective than evaluating our own pain and fatigue.

Asking “how is your love life” can result in too many answers to summarize in one letter. Suffice it to say, they are most often funny answers. The key, though, is they need to look within themselves to evaluate and articulate the answer. Healthy follow up questions, regardless of a positive or negative answer, are “tell me about that” or “what makes it so good/bad?”

This entire process can happen with one or a group of six and be finished in less than five minutes WHILE we are warming up and getting staged for the workout.

The skills necessary to become new leaders come out of every discussion as they learn how to deal with conflict and come to resolution intrinsically. And that is just the first 5 minutes!

I love this stuff, guys. Thank you for the trust you put in DEA and our process.

I look forward to seeing the leaders that develop!


Jay Mabry


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