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“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled.” These are the words of Rick Hoyt, son of Dick Hoyte. You may know his story. In 1977 Rick, who has cerebral palsy, told his father he wanted to participate in a benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick agreed to push his son in his wheelchair and they completed that race next-to-last. Rick’s words to his dad after that race went on to fuel him through over a thousand races, including marathons, duathlons, and triathlons.1

These types of stories capture our attention and touch our hearts. They tap into something that is within each of us: the innate desire to connect with and take care of our own “tribe”. No doubt you have found yourself doing things you never thought you would, or could, simply because a loved one needed it.

This strong connection between your motivation and who you care about is what creates condition #2 for self-motivation. It’s called Relatedness: the need for a sense of belonging and attachment to others.2  We are all carry the potential for this kind of amazing motivation right inside of us.  Sometimes it’s unleashed by a defining moment.  I have seen it unleashed in a coaching conversation.

There is a critical caveat. You need condition #1, autonomy, for condition #2 to work. Doing something for someone because it is important to them makes it a ‘should’, and in the end drains motivation.

When you have that four or five level of intrinsic motivation for exercise and see how it relates to those you care about, you have some serious energy for self-motivation. If exercise feels like a ‘should’, go back and strengthen condition number one before exploring condition number two.

This condition of relatedness is also the reason why you can feel a great surge of motivation when you are part of a step challenge team, or on a sports team, or part of an exercise group on social media. Being part of a group exercising for the same reason can be a great motivator.  Yet, it can be a double-edged sword. If that connection is your only source for motivation, it will lower your confidence for self-motivation because when the group is not there, your motivation will disappear too.  Again, condition number one needs to be strongly in place if being part of a group is going to lead to lasting self-motivation.

Next week we will look at how this all connects to the last condition for exercise self-motivation.

Rethink this week:  Close your eyes and visualize yourself at some point in the future, doing all the things you want to be able to do. They might be things you can do now and want to continue doing in the future, or things you can’t do but really want to be able to do. Imagine you moving in your body with all the strength, stamina, and mobility you need to do those activities with ease, confidence, and full enjoyment. Who are you doing it with? How does your ability to do those activities help the lives of those you care about?



  1. http://www.teamhoyt.com/About-Team-Hoyt.html
  2. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/self-determination-theory/