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I just watched Dan Ariely’s TED conference about motivation and work and it made me think about our attitude towards other people’s reaction to powerlifting. Most of us (in fact, I would say all of us) claim we don’t give a shit.

I think this is a self-deception. I think saying we don’t give a shit and the way we usually express our alleged indifference is actually an expression of our frustration and resentment towards the “other’s” unwillingness to acknowledge that what we do is awesome.

It doesn’t crush us into depression because we still have each other to reinforce our conviction that it actually is awesome, as we all know it. However, each time we are confronted by these forms of unwillingness to acknowledge our “thing” (sport, art, worldview, or whatever you want to call it), we feel bad, even if just a little.

Powerlifting, as any estoteric endeavor, is self-referenced, meaning its full appreciation is only available to insiders (just like science and the higher arts). How do scientists live with the reality that their accomplishment is absolutely impossible to understand to any lay person? Easy: even if the content of their research, essay, review or prototype is completely incomprehensible, science is not. Science is highly valued and when they sit down at the table with their non-scientist friends and say “hey, my paper got accepted by Nature!”, they are most probably looking into a night full of cheering, toasting and other positive reactions.

If a powerlifter tells non-lifting friends and relatives they had an awesome day because they hit a PR at the gym, they might even face a few nasty jokes.

Reinforcements or meaning from the outside are known as “extrinsic motivation”. Reiforcements and meaning derived from the person’s internal world (life history, emotions, etc.) are known as “intrinsic motivation”.

Sources of extrinsic motivation are public recognition, money, love, status, etc.

In powerlifting, extrinsic motivation is restricted to recognition from the community itself. We are more important to each other than we think because, buddy, we DO give a shit.

  • Eric Brown

    What about the few of us who are intrinsically motivated?

  • Marilia Coutinho

    My point is that, as social creatures, the difference between people is the proportion between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It is pretty hard to imagine any human passionately engaged in some endeavor seen as totally irrelevant by EVERYBODY he knows. I, personally, don’t think this is possible, in terms of psychic health.