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Friday / May 24.
HomemitwocentsWhy We Do the Things We Do

Why We Do the Things We Do

Motivation… is why we get up and go to work… then get back up the next day… and the next… and do it all again.

Amid all the speculation, disruption and confusion that surrounded the ‘Homework Affair” presented by the highly paid Australian cricket team on their spectacularly unsuccessful tour of India, there arose the broader issue of how and why human beings get motivated to move their lives forward.

Professional sportspeople have a peculiar view of life. They get paid serious amounts of money to play games, which the general punters choose to play for recreation. Australian cricketers at the top end – like Captain Michael Clarke – may make up to AUD$6 million; top golfers can make more than AUD$10 million a year; and soccer players have ridiculous salaries – an English Premier league player can be on several hundred thousand pounds a week… US basketballers and baseballers, even more.

Professional sports people are entitled to collect an above the average wage by and large because their exertions are public and their careers – not to mention their ongoing mental and physical health – limited by the fragile human frame.

You need to love what you do…

Whether the viewers are crowded into stadia, comfortable on their lounges or increasingly viewing ‘online’ through tablets, laptops and PCs, successes and failures are scrutinised by our youth and not so youthful. The sporting media industry exists and thrives on the missed goals, dropped catches, excruciating injuries and off field antics of athletes.

In India, it is life threatening for the deified Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to walk the streets because the crowds will literally crush him. He has been known to occasionally go out in disguise, with a full beard and pillow stuffed down his shalwar. All that because he hits a leather spheroid with a willow plank more often and more effectively than any human since Don Bradman. A peculiar and particular skill of no productive assistance to human survival – such as ploughing a field or weaving a basket – but over a billion people watch his every innings and buy the products he endorses.

Drug taking, alcohol abuse, ‘fan rage‘, disrespect, ‘insubordination’ (a direct quote from the Australian cricket coach who is a South African) or simply withdrawal from the prying public eye, are more common reactions among elite sportspeople across the codes.

Why Bother?

So what motivates these athletes to do their thing given all the associated pressure? What can there be about a sport that drives men and women relentlessly towards injury, pain, and old age on walking sticks accompanied by daily doses of anti-inflammatories and pain killers (speaking personally).

How often do they ask themselves – why do all this back-breaking, joint-straining, hard work? Why make so many sacrifices, why train at dawn and late into the night, through freezing winters and scorching summers, why put social activities, friends and family on hold? What is it I’m trying to achieve? Is it just for the money?

Of course getting motivated is not exclusively the domain of those who are handsomely rewarded. People can achieve great feats in conflict zones, corporate offices and the local community if they have a positive outlook.

I have learnt many things about professional sport in the 35 years I have been involved as a player, coach, and journalist. I’ve learnt that you can’t play for money and you can’t play because someone else wants you to. You have to want it for yourself. Not for the fans. Not to please the media. Not because you think you have to or because you think there is no other job you can do.

The same applies in the business of optometry. You need to love what you do… and to have goals that you find personally important to achieve. But on top of that, there are staff to pay, a mortgage to cover, kids’ school clothes to be bought and a break away from the rat race to save for.

The motivation to open the practice day after day comes because it just has to be done, there are no second options… in the short term anyhow.