"The best way to be motivated is to find a meaning to what you are doing"


With years of experience as a psychologist for elite athletes, Pep Marí offers our interview a series of reflections on motivation, reaching one's goals, performance, effort, etc.


After being Head of Psychology at the Sant Cugat High Performance Centre (CAR) for more than 25 years, he now dedicates his time to giving conferences on these subjects.

Pep Marí Cortès was Head of the Psychology Department at the Sant Cugat High Performance Centre (CAR) for over 25 years.

He earned his BSc in Psychology and MSc in Sports Psychology at the UAB.

The conference he will give on Wednesday 26 April at the auditorium (Sala d'actes) of the Rectorat building is organised by the UAB Alumni and is entitled "EstratËgies per la motivaciÛ" (Motivation Strategies), and is part of the UAB Health and Sustainability Week.

This former UAB student now offers several conferences and collaborates with different media channels.

He worked with the Spanish Hockey Federation during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and has worked with the RCD Espanyol football club, the Spanish women's national water polo team, and also in the fourth edition of the TV show OperaciÛn Triunfo, Spain's version of Star Academy.

Pep MarÌ is author of two books: "Aprender de los campeones" (Learning from the Champs) and "La felicidad no es el objetivo" (Happiness is not the Goal).

- To what extent is believing that one can achieve a goal (be it athletic, academic, professional) as or more important than being prepared to achieve it? Those with high self-esteem have it easier?
- If you believe you can do it, you have the option of finally doing it. If not, there's no reason to try. They say that if a person does everything they can, they are not obliged to do more. I think they are; they are obliged to believe that everything they do will help them reach their goal. Doing is not enough, you must also believe in what you do in order to be able to succeed.

- What is the simplest strategy to help with motivation (which is the central theme of the conference you will offer)?
-The simplest motivation strategy is to change the way one does things. That is why sports teams change coaches after a period of time with no wins. Maybe the best way to get motivated is to give meaning to what one is doing. It's no fun to put all your effort into something just because. But doing something for a reason can make you feel passionate about it.

- You define yourself as a performance psychologist. Many people think that to get far as an athlete, an elite athlete, there is a lot of suffering, personal sacrifice, and total concentration on your sport. If you never get to be an elite athlete after all these efforts, what do you gain?
Andrés Iniesta once said: "Getting there is not important, but enjoying the journey is". When you are on the road towards your goals you must enjoy the journey, learn and grow as much as you can, and if you finally do not achieve your objectives, you have come a far way from where you were. And if you finally do reach your goals, it's a double prize!

-What principles or techniques have you applied professionally as a psychologist to elite athletes at the CAR which can also help students and/or future professionals interested in succeeding (academically, professionally, etc.)?
-Everything I do with athletes can be applied to students and professionals interested in becoming the best they can be. The psychological principles of performance are the same for any activity. It is always focused on tolerating pressure, quickly correcting errors, maintaining high motivation levels and mood stability.

-How can a person deal with stress and anxiety when facing a major test, one that the person has spent a lot of time preparing for?
-The problem is not whether or not they get nervious, because that is normal. The problem is all the ways in which you act differently because you get nervious. It is the changes, not the anxiety, that cause you to fail.  Therefore, a person must become aware of what they do differently and stop doing it. That is what we refer to when we say one must tolerate pressure, not change anything in extreme situations, not do anything special. 

-What can we "learn from the champs" (like the name of your book)?
-Champions can teach us a lot about the values and habits that can help us become the best version of ourselves. We can also learn the rules of the performance game and strategies to tolerate pressure, facilitate learning and maintain motivation levels. For example, there are two types of athletes: those who look for an excuse to fail, and those who look for a way to win. Wouldn't you say this golden rule can also be applied to students?

-Fear is an emotion or feeling that we often get when facing big challenges. You say that the right dose of fear can be a good thing. How does that work?
We perform best when there is a certain level of activation, tension, revolutions, strength. When we are below this optimum level, our body is too relaxed and eveything is slower. Above it, we are overexcited and make errors because we rush everything. Sometimes, a bit of fear can help us reach this ideal range of activation.

-You say that a psychologist is a manager of people. If we take the world of sports and move it into the workplace, what principles does a psychologist need to bear in mind when working with a group of professionals who need to give it their best as a team?
-Teams that do big things must fulfil three conditions: they must share the same objective (one goal), they share the same reason (they give this goal the same amount of importance), and they share the same level of commitment (they put in the same amount of effort to reach the goal). They say that unity is strength. I disagree. Working together, side by side, does not make a team stronger. Being united can only exist when these three conditions are met, when we work as a team.

-What do you mean when you say "happiness is not the goal"? In your book you say that "what fulfils us is not what we do, but the meaning we give it".
-Yes! One of a person's psychological needs is meaning. We can only put in our effort if we feel that something is worth it. Psychology is not what happens (that is reality); psychology is what we think will happen (and that is based on beliefs).




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