Sunday, 15 April 2012

Motivated to Succeed

In my last blog post I eluded to the fact that this next post would cover the topic of motivation. Whilst I have forgotten half of what was in my mind at that time, I'm hoping I can still remember the other half and it can be of value to eager read on!

Jared Tendlers' insight into the mental game of poker has been a revelation, and really a breath of fresh air in the poker literature. I think this has been demonstrated in its enormous success and the benefit countless individuals have attributed as a direct result of reading the book, listening to the podcasts etc. Moreover, his work is unique in the fact that it targets the entire poker community from noob to top pro, affecting them proportionately in much different realms of the game.

With that said, I wanted to suggest an area of motivation which I think Tendler fails to adequately pick up on, at least in the recent article on motivation I initially referred to in my last blog post.

I believe our hard-wired fight-or-flight mechanism plays a crucial role in basically everything we do. It can be seen most obviously when we face life or death situations, or when we walk close to a cliff edge, or in fact, even when we're about to go into a job interview or chat up the opposite sex. These are just some trivial examples, I would suggest you can draw a link to pretty much everything, it will just be less direct in most cases...

So that brings me on to grinding poker. In a nutshell, I think fight-or-flight has a significant role to play in our levels of motivation to grind. This is pretty obvious, not some groundbreaking assertion. However, I think if we're aware of this fact, it can alter our perception of where our motivation stems from.

Tendler does touch on this idea when discussing the idea of "laziness". He asserts that to stay motivated, one has to push oneself. I feel that if people knew how to push themselves, they simply would. It'd be like intellectual viagra.

So I would like to explore how to push yourself a bit further. Using my preamble about fight-or-flight, I believe the key to pushing ourselves is to understand and manipulate our hard-wired fight-or-flight response. It is often said that we never feel quite as alive as when we feel terrified, and this can be thought of as a "heightened state of awareness". This sounds pretty useful for a poker player. That's often how being "in the zone" is described. The opposite to being in the zone, or having a heightened state of awareness, is to lack awareness, consciousness and clarity, instead to drift without a clear purpose and without drive. I think these ideas describe laziness and dreaming (but not burnout).

If one agrees that triggering fight-or-flight does in fact lead to those feelings, and those feelings are directly equivalent to the opposite of laziness and dreaming, then we can conclude that we gotta get ourselves some of that! I don't want this post to go on forever so I'll bullet point a few suggestions of how to stimulate and positively use fight-or-flight to your advantage:

  • Remind yourself daily that your life is like sand in an hourglass, and the sand is falling to the bottom constantly. You don't know how fast the sand is falling and when it'll all run out.
  • Think of a family/friend bereavement, allow it to attach significance to your present opportunity which you can simply throw away, or in honour of whoever has been lost, you're going to actually make something of every single thing you have or get in the future.
  • Watch the news each day, you'll see enough terrible stuff going on to realize you gotta make the most of the chance you've got. To make this more lucid, really try and visualize and imagine being in the position of the person who is in the middle of the atrocity.
  • Think about whatever it is that gives you butterflies in your tummy or the heart beat a bit faster. Link that to a sense of purpose and a decision to act NOW and not waste your present opportunity.
  • Remember the greatest triumph/achievement you ever had, how you felt and what it would feel like now, and what it would TAKE to get there.
  • Affirm what it is that makes you great, or what it is you're going to achieve in the future that will be great. Think of how special that is, and how hard it is to be like that/do that. Really consider all the steps and sacrifices involved, and let that be a lesson of where SUCCESS+GREATNESS COMES FROM.

The first few examples might seem rather morbid, and yeah they are, sorry! Hopefully the last ones cheer you up a bit :). But what is crucial is to leave with a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE regarding all of these. Positivity is your battery, and it needs a full charge to remain motivated and inspired. So you have to think of those morbid things as a fuel for your positivity, that you really do have a huge opportunity to succeed and crush, not to curl up in a corner and feel depressed and a victim of everything that has gone before you.

A final word on burnout. I stated earlier that burnout is dissimilar to laziness and dreaming in that fight-or-flight cannot positively influence it the same way. In fact, burnout is basically a result of overloading yourself. Fight-or-flight is emotionally and sometimes physically exhausting, so actually overdoing it would LEAD to burnout! As Tendler says, rest is the key, in terms of how much sleep you're getting, how much time away from the computer you are getting, how much time away from thinking about poker you are getting, and how many breaks you take during your actual grind.

I often think of great tennis players between games when they get those couple of minutes to eat a banana and gulp some juice. They often seem to just be somewhere else, in another world. You would think that the importance of a slam final would ensure they stay focused on the game at all times, but these small breaks are absolutely crucial for re-charging and recovering, mentally even more than physically. Now poker is far more mental than physical, so the benefit of a break to recharge and recover psychologically is enormous. I also think to world championship chess matches, the super grandmasters will pace up and down or walk around away from the board numerous times in a game, only a minority of them sit at the table for the full duration of the game without getting up.

On that note, I wish everyone all the best in taking more breaks and feeling alive!

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