Saturday, February 14, 2009

What You Can Learn From a Girl in a Snow Storm

Few individuals can say they've run outside in a snow storm. As of yesterday, I can now raise my hand as one of the few, and proud, who have done so.

Yes, some may argue, doing so was probably on the stupid side of the crazy spectrum, but I'm a runner. We're all a little crazy, no?

For most of the run, I honestly couldn't see a thing with my eyes barely able to register my surroundings amid the heavy snowfall and fat snowflakes splashing onto my face. It was almost like God's dandruff was pouring all over the Earth. Dude, just take a shower next time!

I went on an out-and-back route, so on the way back, the only thing I was following was the slight definition of my previously-made footsteps in the snow.

As I ran, the most prominent thought I remember having was something along the lines of, "Why am I doing this?" Of course there was the very viable option of a treadmill. Or even cross-training on the stationary bike. But instead, I chose to brave the wind and quickly-accumulating snow. As I sit here now, I still wonder what my motivation was.

Where does self-motivation come from? What an interesting question.

Psychology 101 describes several different motivation theories, including the Instinct theory, Drive Reduction theory, Arousal theory, Psychoanalytic theory, and Humanistic theory. It seems I can attribute my adventurous, blizzard-like run to the Arousal theory, which Psychology 101 defines as, "Similar to Hull's Drive Reduction Theory, Arousal theory states that we are driven to maintain a certain level of arousal in order to feel comfortable. Arousal refers to a state of emotional, intellectual, and physical activity. It...doesn't rely on only a reduction of tension, but a balanced amount. It also does better to explain why people climb mountains, go to school, or watch sad movies."

Perhaps another source of motivation in the case of running stems from the Humanistic Theory. Psychology 101 explains this theory as the following:

"Although discussed last, humanistic theory is perhaps the most well-known theory of motivation. According to this theory, humans are driven to achieve their maximum potential and will always do so unless obstacles are placed in their way. These obstacles include hunger, thirst, financial problems, safety issues, or anything else that takes our focus away from maximum psychological growth.

The best way to describe this theory is to utilize the famous pyramid developed by Abraham Maslow (1970) called the Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed that humans have specific needs that must be met and that if lower level needs go unmet, we can not possible strive for higher level needs. The Hierarchy of Needs shows that at the lower level, we must focus on basic issues such as food, sleep, and safety. Without food, without sleep, how could we possible focus on the higher level needs such as respect, education, and recognition?
Throughout our lives, we work toward achieving the top of the pyramid, self actualization, or the realization of all of our potential. As we move up the pyramid, however, things get in the way which slow us down and often knock us backward. Imagine working toward the respect and recognition of your colleagues and suddenly finding yourself out of work and homeless. Suddenly, you are forced backward and can no longer focus your attention on your work due to the need for finding food and shelter for you and your family.

According to Maslow, nobody has ever reached the peak of his pyramid. We all may strive for it and some may even get close, but no one has achieved full self-actualization. Self-actualization means a complete understanding of who you are, a sense of completeness, of being the best person you could possibly be. To have achieved this goal is to stop living, for what is there to strive for if you have learned everything about yourself, if you have experienced all that you can, and if there is no way left for you to grow emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually."

I suppose, according to the Humanistic theory, those religious about running may be finding the motivation to run due to our "need for self-actualization." Perhaps this is where I find the motivation to run 6 days a week and devote a significant portion of my time, effort, and spirit towards a sport I feel is a part of the cliche, yet true, aspect of "living life to its fullest."

This is certainly something to think about. It is a curious phenomenon that we scramble to reach the top of this Hierarchy of Needs pyramid when its summit cannot be reached.

So next time you don't want to get out of bed to go on that run, and you want so dearly to smack the alarm clock that taunts you with its screech, think about what motivates you. Life will throw us all a number of snowstorms, and we must run through them.

1 comment:

  1. Thoughts of a warm breakfast always get me through those chilly morning runs!