Push or Pull – What’s Driving Your Motivation …

In our pursuits through life, there are motivating forces that drive us to achieve more and attain our goals.  What are your motivations?  Where do they come from?  Are those forces pushing you toward your goals or pulling you toward success?

What is a “push” motivation?

When the alarm goes off in the dark hours of the morning, by telling myself to “get out of bed” I am pushing forward.  There is a self-motivation that wakes us up, gets us ready for the day – and perhaps – catch that morning workout.  The challenge with pushing is that eventually, we get tired.  Sooner or later … we miss that morning workout … we “break” our New Year’s resolution … we slide back toward the old, comfortable habits that held us back and delayed or prevented us in the first place.

It takes constant strength to push forward with every choice you make.

What is a “pull” motivation?

When I played college football, our coach was a huge Vince Lombardi fan and if we weren’t 30-minutes early, we were late.  And if anyone was “late” the entire team paid for it.  Getting out of bed in the morning for the 6:00am lifting group meant a 5:30am weight room session.  This wasn’t a choice – it was an imperative.  More reliable than morning sunshine, we were out of bed and at the gym, about to workout, even if we were half-lidded, yawning, and groggy.  We were figuratively pulled out of bed and if that wasn’t enough to get you up, you would be literally pulled out of bed by large angry men.  The “team” was accountable for every individual person.  As a result, the “individual” was part of a larger commitment.  If a team member was late, the entire team was late.

A “pull” motivation is more than you.  We choose our own situation and who / what we aspire to be but we do not control the “pull” that moves us forward and as a result – it can’t fade when you get tired.  “John” might like to eat donuts for breakfast but a “triathlete” or “sub 2-hour half-marathoner” does not.

Role Models

When I was a young teenager, my grandfather asked me who my role models were.  He was the first person to ask me that question in many years.  It really made me think about the values and traits that I wanted for myself and what I wanted to accomplish in life.

Decades later, I find myself contemplating “how many donuts should I order with my coffee?”

  • Option 1: The “deal” is a coffee and two donuts. No-brainer
  • Option 2: Donuts aren’t healthy and I’m trying to be healthy.  I shouldn’t order two … maybe I’ll get one.
  • Option 3: Triathletes don’t eat donuts.

One of those three options results in a healthy bowl of oatmeal and fresh fruit for breakfast.  Choosing or not choosing donuts is in my control and I can “push” myself to be healthy but self-identifying with a role model “pulls” me toward being healthy.  Even easier, if there are people with me that have identified me as a role model, I probably wouldn’t even be in the donut shop to begin with!   Having a greater purpose makes the decision for you.  


Once you introduce accountability into the equation, most of your decisions become easier.  The “rationale” for why you ate donuts for breakfast becomes real flimsy when you say it out loud to someone that is actively working to help you live a healthier life.  Having a coach provide your training plan and feedback pulls you to the workouts.  They help you avoid the slippery slope of dropping one or two workouts here and there.


If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

  • The underlying assumption throughout this entire process is that you are living intentionally.  Are you?  
  • Have you articulated your tangible goals?  What are you moving toward?  Who do you want to become?  
  • Who is in your support crew?  Who is holding you accountable?

Last year, “the road to 140.6 at Cedar Point” pulled me forward nearly every day.  

  • I had clearly defined goals
  • I had a training plan
  • I had a guideline for nutrition
  • I had a support crew that happily pushed me out the door 
  • I had a coach

What’s in store for this year? 


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