Success in Training: Type I Motivation

Drive and Motivation are the points of my post for this Friday (the Friday that happens to usher in the week before the New Year). I recently began working with someone to help improve my performance with SAPT – he actually specializes in the mental preparation of athletes and, believe it or not, the way athletes approach competition is the way I prefer to approach each one of my days.

In our meeting last week we spent time completing a simple exercise about strengths and weaknesses. I had to come up with 10. At the end he asked why I didn’t list “Drive” – I paused for a moment and told him I didn’t consider my “Drive” to ever waiver. Thus it’s always a given. He accepted my answer, but this exchange stuck with me.

So, when I saw the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink sitting on my bookshelf a couple days ago, I was intrigued and thought I’d use my ***flip-through technique to see what I could learn:

Page 190: “Type I insight: It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine-to-five. It’s whether our work fulfills us. If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I’m guessing the former because there is a complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money.”

This struck a chord with me. After all, if I told you what I earned from SAPT in 2009 (or 2010 for that matter) you’d probably see I strongly gravitate towards “creative work” as a primary motivational factor. Flipping back to Chapter 3, I was curious what the heck Type I means.

Type I people are those who are intrinsically motivated. Their counterparts are Type X, or extrinsically motivated individuals. Of course most of us have tendencies in both realms, but [Pink claims] there is some interesting research that shows not only are Type I’s more successful in the long-term (think Oprah Winfrey), but they are also healthier!

Because Type X’s live in a world driven so strongly by outside rewards and, coincidentally, are often Type A personalities, too, they are “significantly more likely to develop heart disease.” Wow.

So, how does changing your motivational approach make a difference in your training? In just a few works, it seems to boil down to “Slow and steady wins the race.” Pink highlights these points as Type I factors (Pink’s points are in bold, my comments follow):


  • Type I’s almost always outperform Type X’s in the long run. In the end, the most successful people (by traditional standards) weren’t directly pursuing conventional notions of success along the way. Instead they choose to focus on working hard and persisting through challenges to learn about the world and achieve something that endures.Think about every infomercial that promises six-pack abs or dropping three dress sizes in a finite amount of time. Who do you know that has ever achieved the goals set out by the fitness marketing geniuses? I must know at least 3-dozen people that have dropped money on the P90x system. Guess how many people have made it through the 90 days? Z-E-R-O. Why? Because it’s too difficult, unrealistic, and in the end, the promise of a six-pack simply isn’t enough motivation for most people. They need support, feedback, a sense of community, and real human guidance (not a guy on a DVD telling you “good job, keep it up” style non-sense).
  • Type I behavior is a renewable resource. Taking comfort in small victories on a day-to-day basis is incredibly motivating. Something as simple as executing your first plank for 3x:15 in week 1 (while your muscles shake violently trying to figure out what the hell you want them to do…) and then noticing in Week 3 you execute 3x:25 while feeling solid as a rock is HUGE. Acknowledging these victories is how you learn to become a Type I trainee.


  • Type I behavior promotes greater physical and mental well-being. Why? Because it depends upon autonomy, mastery, and purpose.A Type I trainee is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. I hate to break it to you, but abs or a great posterior don’t matter. What does? The sense of building confidence, a healthy body, and a functional body. If a nice ass and a six-pack result, even better, but Type I’s will let that be a happy by-product. The end of the year is naturally, I suppose, the time of year when everyone audits himself or herself. For me, in terms of SAPT, it is an extremely exciting time when I get to assess the previous year and set up a “map” for us to follow in the upcoming year. The same approach can be taken with a new fitness or performance training plan. There are no quick fixes – not in business and certainly not when dealing with the health and functionality of the human body.

Take comfort in the process and rejoice with every small victory!

*** I have a bit of a penchant for book collecting. I’m not exactly sure when this happened, but I constantly have to stop myself from buying books in stores and online. The main problem being that I buy them and then – usually – don’t actually read them cover-to-cover. I tend to use them to browse through and reference. For me, it’s a brand of fun: you never know what you’ll learn randomly flipping through a book.