Post By: Jeff Ruser, M.A. | Monday, April 13, 2020

motivation performance sport psychology

Let's face it… there is very little that is “normal” about the phase of life we are now finding ourselves in. Purposefully secluding ourselves, spending the vast majority of our time in our homes, and likely missing out on a lot of the interactions and workouts we would normally be experiencing is just odd! With this peculiar circumstance, you might find that you are motivated to make the best of things with what you have or might feel charged up to defeat this, like it's one of the performance obstacles that you have faced before. But for others… you may not. You might feel out of sorts. You might feel isolated and cramped. Or, you might feel like you are losing the progress you have worked towards in your training and work. With all of that, you might feel the motivation leaving you day by day.

Motivation is a term we all know. We know what it feels like to have it, or not have it. And, we all rely on it on a day to day basis to accomplish what we need and want to in this life. But, what happens when it goes away and we are left grasping at air to try and find it again? Here, I want to share with you aspects of your life and experience, as well as some easy strategies for you to master motivation and regain the drive you hope to live with – even while social distancing.

The 3 C's: Choice, Competence, Connectedness. The 3 C's are a great framework to think about when understanding motivation. Choice, or what psychologists might refer to as autonomy, is the desire we have to direct our lives, call the shots, and have agency in what we are doing. Competence is the know-how in a particular domain or task, whether it's a technical skill in sports, or knowing how to structure your work-at-home schedule to be most productive. Connectedness is the universal desire that we have to know and be known by others. The more we can build and strengthen the 3 C's in our life, the more motivation we have. Specifically, the more we can boost the 3 C's in this new environment of social distancing we find ourselves in, the more motivated we might be to make the best of our situation.


Choices of how to go about your day may seem or feel few and far between right now. With the government playing a much larger role in dictating what we are doing each day, and asking that we respect their decisions, we might be lacking quite a bit of choice in our lives. It might seem like we have to wake up, eat, work or occupy time, eat, sleep, repeat. But whatever your routine is, there is likely room to add choices and your own plan to boost your intrinsic motivation!


  • Brainstorm new activities to do in your home or in the area that social distancing allows
  • The night before, write out your normal daily routine… then add in 3 new and unique activities
  • Create a “flex” spots in your schedule by giving yourself 2-4 options of what to do in that block of time. (This is great for working and training on your own.) When the time comes, see which option you're feeling, and go with it!


Depending on what we are doing throughout our days, we might feel like we have a lot of background knowledge or understanding, or maybe not. It depends! Another way to boost confidence is to learn, practice, fail, and refine our abilities and knowledge. For example, you might need to work out legs on Monday. You know the 5 exercises your strength coach gave you, but you don't know which exact muscles in the leg the exercise works the most. Google it! Another example might be that we are likely unsure of how to be most productive when social distancing. After all, we haven't done this before. First of all, you are reading this article, so you are already seeking out additional competence. Secondly, there are endless resources for you to read or watch or discuss to continue to build your knowledge of how to master quarantine. Make a daily routine. Learn a new drill to master your skills. Look in to alternative places to train or work out.


Connectedness is the ‘C' that makes the biggest difference for me, personally. Connecting with other people for introverts and extroverts can be a recharging experience. Often times, we don't even consciously notice the boost we get from being around others in our normal daily routines. It is just a part of who we are and what we do. In a time like now, when people are increasingly distant, connectedness might be the first ‘C' to fail you. Sure, you might be Facetiming your friend every day, but is that enough?


  • Use connecting with others as a tool. Coordinate with teammates or co-workers tasks you want to get done. The next day, hold each other accountable by checking in. Nothing like a little social pressure to get you motivated!
  • Schedule, and literally add to your calendar or daily plan, times to connect with other people. Mix it up. Catch up with a teammate, call a coach, text a coworker, email your boss.

In thinking about the 3 C's, what is “enough” of one is going to be different for everyone. Just because your roommate or family member is fulfilled by sticking to the same routine every day, doesn't mean you will be or vice versa. Similarly, some people thrive with relatively little connection, whereas others might need more and more. In all of this, share and write down your goals and ambitions. Pursue those goals knowing that you can add and subtract aspects of the 3 C's to keep you feeling motivated and ready to conquer your day quarantine-style!