Kenyan runnersKenyan runners dominate the world in competitive distance running. Many run barefoot, but they’ll tell you their personal best time right along with their name. With almost half of the entire population in poverty, if someone in a nearby village wins a small half-marathon and a check for $2,500 that is four times the yearly median income. In Kenya, the will to escape is channeled into running. The motivation to “make it” is a direct result from the environment.

The Olympic and world champions of the sport in Kenya train along side those merely trying to break through. These runners, regardless of skill, motivate one another to keep going, recognizing with painful clarity just how fleeting success can be.


Since 1972, Cuba has won 32 Olympic Gold medals in boxing, more than any other country, despite the country’s boycott of the 1980 & 1984 games. However, the boxers status goes only as far as the amateur ranks. Fidel Castro banned professional boxing in the 1960s.

A Cuban boxer desiring to turn professional must defect, leaving everything and everybody behind including the motivational structure. It is a decision filled with torment, especially in the heavily family-oriented Cuban culture. Dyosbelis Hurtado, who defected in 1994, stated, “It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made because of my family. My mama, papa and seven brothers are still in Cuba. I don’t know how many more years will pass before I see them.”

“[You] can do it, so can I”

We need models to show us how they did it, coaches to teach us how to do it, and others around us trying to do it as well.

The same motivational structure exists for Brazilian soccer, running groups, AdvoCare,® CrossFit,® masters swimming clubs, Jenny Craig,® or Alcoholics Anonymous.® These groups all rely on each other as “how-to” models and coaches.

We are connected to others. We need models in our lives to show us how things are done and others to continually raise the bar for us. It is the external motivation that connects….Will your Hinge connect? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   

Those of us who are paid to perform all have a countdown. The moment when we need to perform at our best because it matters the most.

Core Pilates & FitnessSean Bartram at Core Pilates & Fitness trains the Colts Cheerleaders and on the mirror, he has the number of days before the try-outs. Many coaches, athletes, and teams also have similar countdowns, such as, the 2016 Olympic Trials, or FIFA World Cup. Maybe for us, it’s a specific race or event?

In order to play our best when it matters the most, we need to develop the mentality that our best is needed today. So, how do we develop this mindset?

Coaches in all areas find tons of ways to externally motivate. They create cultures of excellence, set goals, post motivational quotes, and even bring in speakers, ex-athletes or Sport Psychologists (yes!). Companies and businesses use the seemingly biggest external motivator of all, pay and benefits (except research shows this isn’t true). Each of these motivational tools all work, up to a point.

What replaces the external motivation actually becomes more important because at some point, it will get tough. We will have setbacks, encounter adversity, and struggle. What needs to motivate us is our “why.” Our internal motivation of “why” we do what we do.

If we don’t determine our “why”, we won’t continually put forth our best effort during the countdown. Complacency can easily set in and we may say to ourselves, “this day doesn’t matter that much.” The reality is that you’re right; physically it may not make a difference. However, it matters mentally, because if our “why” is not strong enough, we will make excuses when it gets tough. When the countdown to performance gets close, we will then put forth our best, but at that point, so is everyone else.

Our “why” should make us cry, if not, then it’s probably not our why…It is tough to develop an emotional connection to what drives us. What motivated us two years ago may not motivate us now! We may discover that our internal motivation is really about pleasing others, proving others wrong, or that we are actually trying to fulfill someone else’s goals that THEY had for US.

We are who we are when we are alone…We can fool everyone in our lives that we are putting forth our best effort, or that we have it all together. Except, we just can’t fool ourselves. If we want to perform our best when it matters the most, we need to develop our internal motivation now, not later. Think about it, pray about it, and write it down, you’ll know you’ve got your real “why” when it brings a tear to your eye.

Sean BartramSean Bartram B.Sc (hons.), MBASES is owner of Core Pilates and Fitness ( and head trainer to the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders. Follow him @corepilatesllc

The Hinge-The Importance of Mental Toughness Dr. Rob BellDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  His 2nd book titled The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness was recently released. Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact