Inspiration can appear at unlikely times. This weekend, I watched Creed, the seventh (!) movie in the Rocky series, which was released in 2015. It is hard to believe that Rocky has been part of our lives since 1976.
It is pretty easy to find motivation in Rocky movies. The themes are clear: Determination over complacency. Good versus evil. Will versus circumstances. The thing is, I didn’t sit down and think “This movie will be good for me. I need a kick in the pants.” I just wanted to be entertained for a couple of hours.
In case you don’t know the story (and I’ll be sure to avoid spoilers), Donnie Creed -- the son of Rocky’s opponent from the first two movies in the series -- decides to become a professional boxer just like his late father, and asks Rocky to train him. Rocky accepts, and the movie illustrates the struggles of Donnie trying to build his own identity as he also builds his skills as a boxer. We also see the struggles of Rocky, who is facing his own mortality while now too old to participate in the one activity he was ever any good at.
People who are involved with athletics and sports understand better than most others that when it comes to training obstacles, we’re often our own worst enemies. I’m sore. I’m busy. I’m tired. We can think of any excuse in the book to take the path of least resistance. And I’m the biggest hypocrite in the world as I write this, because just this morning, I slept in instead of doing my usual morning roadwork and workout. Ugh. Do as I say and not as I do? Or perhaps I’m writing this so I can convince myself that it is within my power to get off my butt and start moving.
During a training session in the movie, this line of dialog made me sit up and take notice: "See this guy here?" Rocky said, pointing to Donnie’s reflection in a mirror, "That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face.” That couldn’t be truer, at least in my case. I’m my own worst enemy, and toughest critic. If the statement “Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step in solving it,” then perhaps the second step is identifying the problem.
Fair enough. So what can we do to fix it? For me, it involves setting realistic goals. Sure I want to wake up at 4AM each morning without needing an alarm clock, pop out of bed like I’m ready to take on the world, and have a workout that rivals Olympic athletes. Not gonna happen. What I should expect, however, is a realistic target of three hard workouts per week, two light ones, and being lazy on the weekends. Sometimes I dangle my lazy weekends like candy in front of my face, especially on hard workout days. I tell myself “Do this now so you can be a slob on Saturday and Sunday.” That trick doesn’t work every time, but more often than not, it does.
I can’t tell you what will motivate you, but I bet you know what buttons to push. Dip into that well when you need to, and be sure to provide yourself some rewards. I’m not above self-bribery when necessary.
Prior to his championship fight, Rocky tells Creed, “It’s you against you” and pointing to his opponent, “He’s just in the way.” Win or lose, that’s going to be the case. Fortunately, nobody knows your opponent better than you do. Attack his weaknesses to find your strength.
Go see Creed. It won’t disappoint you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a missed workout to make up for.