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Natural Talent and Motivation

What is the relationship between an athlete’s natural talent and their motivation? Who usually has more motivation: athletes with lots of natural talent, or athletes with little natural talent? I believe both these kinds of athletes can be highly motivated in their own way.

Athletes that are naturally talented (gifted with great athletic genes) have a great motivational advantage working in their favor. Since they are naturally athletic, perhaps with great size, strength, speed, or coordination, they have a high ceiling. They have a lot of potential for athletic success. This gives them a lot of confidence. They know that if they put in the work, they can reach their potential and achieve great success. This is very motivating. Some of the most successful athletes are motivated for this reason. They know they have God-given talents, and they don’t want to have them go to waste. They want to get the most out of themselves and reach their potential. Lebron James is an athlete who I know embraces this type of motivation.

It also helps a lot that naturally gifted athletes have success at a young age. This success itself is motivating and keeps them working hard and wanting more.

However, the main motivational disadvantage for naturally talented athletes is the fact that their natural talent can be used as a crutch. There are many naturally talented athletes who are lazy because they think that their natural talent can carry them to success. They think they can still succeed without working hard, simply because they have more natural talent than others. They may think to themselves, “Why work hard when I don’t need to?” This laziness however, often allows less talented athletes to defeat them by outworking them.

For athletes that have little natural talent, their motivational advantages and disadvantages are inverse of those of naturally talented athletes. The motivational advantage for less naturally talented athletes is the fact that they NEED to work hard in order to compete with their more talented competition. Since they may not naturally be the biggest, strongest, or fastest athlete, they have to work very hard to improve in these areas. They also have to work very hard on their skills, mental game, and strategic game in order to make up for their lack of natural talent. When an athlete badly wants to succeed, but they know that lack natural talent, they are often very motivated to outwork their competition and get the most out of their capabilities.

Also, athletes who lack natural talent are often overlooked by scouts and coaches. This can work in their favor by giving them a “chip on their shoulder” that motivates them to prove their doubters wrong.

However, athletes who lack natural talent can have a big motivational disadvantage. Since they lack natural talent, their ceiling may not be that high. Even if they work their hardest, they might only achieve a small amount of success. If an athlete doesn’t think they have a lot of potential, then they’re less likely to be motivated to strive for greatness.

 And even if an athlete with little natural talent believes they have a high ceiling for success, they still have to work extremely hard in order to reach it. This can be discouraging. Most people aren’t willing to work that hard. They might not think it’s worth it, so they might decide to give up and choose a different, easier path in life.

Also, like how naturally talented athletes gain motivation from wining early in their careers, athletes who lack natural talent can lose motivation if they fail a lot early in their athletic career.

As you can see, both these kinds of athletes have motivational advantages and disadvantages. It’s debatable about which one has it better. I believe that it’s about equal. Both these kinds of athletes are capable of finding great motivation to work hard and succeed.

For naturally talented athletes, they need to draw as much motivation and confidence as they can from their high potential. And to maximize their motivation and reach their potential, they need to resist the temptation of falling into complacency and using their talent as a crutch. If they can do these two things, they will be highly motivated, and therefore will reach great success.

For athletes who lack natural talent, they need to draw motivation from haters and from the need to make up for their lack of natural talent. And to maximize their motivation and reach their potential, they need to resist the temptation of losing hope and self-belief. If they can do these two things, they will be highly motivated and will succeed. They might not succeed as much as the athletes who are both naturally talented and highly motivated, but they still will succeed.

Side note: remember that when it comes to natural talent, it is a spectrum. Natural talent isn’t something you either entirely have or entirely don’t have. Some athletes have a moderate amount of natural talent. For these kinds of athletes, they have the both sets of motivational advantages and disadvantages, but to lesser degrees.  

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