Why Passion and Motivation are critical to Making the Leap

Why passion and motivation are critical to making the leap

My book, Make the Leap, explains why the normal pattern for improvement follows what I call a Leap Cycle. 

A Leap Cycle consists of three stages: Build, Leap, and Sustain, which themselves are the product of the positive feedback loop we create in our training. When we create a strong training feedback loop centered around quality, recovery, and consistency our improvement compounds and can result in a leap.*

(*For the full explanation, you can sign up to my newsletter and get Chapter 1: What is a "Leap"? for free. Many people--runners and non-runners--have told me this one chapter has fundamentally changed how they think about improvement.)

Here is a simple image of a Leap Cycle.

The Leap Cycle

The Build stage is a long period of quality work, with tiny incremental improvements being made on a consistent basis. There is little visible improvement, but you are setting the stage to make a leap. This stage can take months.

The Leap stage is when everything clicks, and you suddenly experience the improvement you've been building toward. When this happens, you can go to another level seemingly overnight. This stage doesn't last very long--weeks, typically--but it's a lot of fun. It's what we train for.

The Sustain stage kicks in when the leap is over. We plateau and, assuming no significant changes to our training, we remain at this level. If we can again improve the quality of our training, we will start another Leap Cycle and shift into a new Build phase.

What you can see clearly by viewing the image above is that the vast majority of the time we spend training creates very little visible improvement. We are working hard but for very little apparent gain.

Engagement Sustains Quality

The key to maintaining the highest quality feedback loop is a high level of engagement. Engagement is essentially a measure of how involved or immersed you are in what you are doing. Fully engaged means what you are doing permeates all areas of your life. Fully disengaged means you have no connection to it at all.

So how do we get engaged? There are hundreds of specific activities we can do, but let's keep it high level. Engagement is essentially the combination of our passion and motivation. It's important to distinguish between the two.

Passion is an intense interest in something. It's a desire to do it because you enjoy doing it. Passion is fundamentally expressed in the moment. 

Motivation is different. Motivation is the desire to achieve a goal or a result. It is fundamentally future-focused, and doesn't have to be about the thing you are doing. (Imagine a parent who is motivated to do a job simply to put food on the table.)

If you have both passion and motivation, you have a strong foundation upon which to base your work.

If you have only one, it had better be really strong. (And if it's passion, it had better have some focus.)

If you have neither...you really need to find something else to do. Because you'll never make the leap. 

Why Passion and Motivation Lead to a Leap

Let's look at that picture again. Specifically, let's look at the Build and Sustain phases. Those take up the majority of your training time.

 Leap Cycle with Build and Sustain phases shaded

In fact, well over 90% of your time spent training or learning or practicing is spent in the Build and Sustain phases. Those phases require a relentless focus on quality, recovery, and consistency. And your reward for that is...largely invisible!

The hallmark of these phases is the lack of visible improvement!

And this is why passion and motivation are so important. They sustain your focus when you aren't getting the reward. 

Passionate people show up to do the work because they love doing the work. They want to be immersed in it.

Motivated people show up to do the work because they want the end result at the end of the journey. They can't afford to set themselves back.

Fully engaged people show up passionate about doing the work, motivated to make significant improvement, and committed to the process. They aren't guaranteed to do a great job, but they've given themselves the best chance.

Improving Engagement

Passion and motivation aren't innate talents that we can't control. We can build them just like we build other skills.

If you aren't feeling passionate about your work, dive into related aspects. Ask more questions, read more about it, and look for hidden connections. We can't always manufacture passion, but we can continually light matches and hope that one of them hits some kindling.

If you aren't feeling motivated about your work, it's time to start setting better goals. There are lots of ways to do this. They can be norm-referenced or self-referenced, long-term or short-term, North Star goals or Next Step goals. But whatever goal you are setting has to resonate with you.

I'll write more about goal-setting in future articles, but here's a rule of thumb: if your goal doesn't make your body feel a physical response--excitement, discomfort, resolve--it probably isn't strong enough to help you do the work you need to do. When you do get that feeling, you've got something you can work with.

You don't have to be the most passionate or the most motivated tomorrow. You just need to keep finding ways to boost your passion and motivation consistently. 

You're going to be doing a lot of work with little visible gain. Give yourself the support you need by stoking the fire within you.


Want to learn more?

- Read the Introduction to Make the Leap here on the blog.
- Then sign up to my Think Better newsletter and get Chapter One: What is a "Leap?" for FREE.

Or if you are ready to think better, train better, and make the leap, Buy the book today!