I’ve been thinking lately about what drives us to pursue certain activities. This line of thinking was initiated by this question in an application form for competing in the Soke Cup (the world championship tournament for the Chito-ryu style of karate):
Why do you want to compete in the Soke cup?
The question is asked because this is not just any tournament. It happens every three years and will include the best and most dedicated athletes in the world. Entering a competition like this should be done with more consideration than a usual event.
As I pondered how to best answer the question, I noticed my son sitting beside with his pen down and an unhappy look on his face. I asked him how he was thinking of answering why he wanted to compete in the Soke Cup. His response was, “I don’t.”
A careful balance
I’ve learned in my time as a parent that you’re often walking a fine line between pushing your children to challenge themselves and allowing them to find their own passions (not to mention creating spaces for adequate rest and downtime). But some kids need a little boost to find a craft to pour themselves into.
Self-direction is great until a child only seeks the easiest path at all times.
Anyway, this all got me thinking about motivation. At times, external motivations are important. They help us to remember about deadlines and responsibilities to others. But ideally, motivation is intrinsic and comes from the individual.
But that kind of motivation is not always found through the course of everyday life. It often needs to be cultivated — that was sure the case in my life.
This particular child of mine is talented, but working hard is not yet a skill he cherishes. He participates in karate because we require our boys to join at least one physical activity outside of school. He’d tried it for a year and while he doesn’t hate it, he also doesn’t love it.
And he has no desire in competing against others or doing the required training for a world-class event.
Finding their way
You can’t force children into pursuits: they have to find their own interests.
My son? I couldn’t ask him to answer a question that asks why he wanted to do something when he in fact does not want to do it. But I also didn’t want to let him just say no and forget about it. I asked him in what way would he want to challenge himself in 2019.
He decided on joining flag football.
I support his decision. When we hit situations like this, I prefer to let them make their own decisions. But at the same time, they need to understand two truths:
- there is joy in a job well done, even when you don’t enjoy the job
- mature adult do the things that are needed, not only what they want to do
Those were truths that took me far too long to learn.
Originally published at chrisbowler.com.