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EQUUS - - Biology -

TAKE RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY FOR SUC­CESS—AND FAIL­URE

Mo­ti­va­tion comes in two ba­sic forms: ex­trin­sic and in­trin­sic. Ex­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion is supplied by re­wards--prizes, cash, jobs, praise, salaries, at­ten­tion---that other peo­ple pro­vide. Re­wards fuel our in­ter­est in to­day’s goals, but they don’t do much for next week. They also un­der­mine the long-term drive for im­prove­ment that is crit­i­cal for out­stand­ing per­for­mance.

By con­trast, in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion is a feel­ing from in­side that we want to progress for the sake of our own well­be­ing. This in­ner drive en­cour­ages us to master skills through hard work, set and achieve goals, over­come tough mo­ments, and fo­cus on per­sonal growth. These are good traits to de­velop no mat­ter what we do in life, on horse­back or off.

In­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion is of­ten seen as an in­born trait, one that some peo­ple have and oth­ers don’t. When you see an im­pas­sioned rider work­ing at her craft day af­ter day, you might as­sume that she came out of the womb with a burn­ing de­sire to achieve. And to some ex­tent it is true that men­tal im­pul­sion varies with per­son­al­ity and ge­net­ics. But for ev­ery rare eques­trian whose pas­sion is a force of na­ture, there are hun­dreds of thou­sands who grow their own zeal. Drive is stim­u­lated or sti­fled through daily ex­pe­ri­ences---the way oth­ers re­spond to our suc­cesses and fail­ures, the guid­ance our train­ers of­fer dur­ing lessons, our ap­proach to solv­ing prob­lems, in­ter­nal be­liefs about our own com­pe­tence. These fac­tors make the dif­fer­ence be­tween the rider who chal­lenges her­self at ev­ery turn and the sad­dle potato who only day­dreams about be­ing an Olympic con­tender.

How can you of­fer your­self the kind of feed­back that sparks in­ner mo­ti­va­tion? One way is to en­cour­age the sense that you con­trol your out­comes. If you can get a jit­tery re­tired race­horse to plod across a wooden bridge, rec­og­nize that you did some­thing to cause that out­come. It didn’t hap­pen be­cause you wished hard, or be­cause you were lucky, or be­cause the horse sud­denly changed her mind about loud, hol­low foot­ing. It hap­pened be­cause of you. And if you think of it in that way, your in­ner mo­ti­va­tion will in­crease.

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