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Using Anger as Motivation

In sports, it is quite common for athletes to use anger as motivation, especially in aggressive and physical sports such as football. Anger can be a powerful emotion that can fuel people to work hard towards their goals. Athletes often feel most motivated when they’re angry about something. Much of the time, athletes get angry after losing or after being disrespected/overlooked. For the athletes that hate losing, they often use their anger to work very hard to make sure they succeed more in the future. And since it is human nature to desire respect and high-status, many athletes hate the feeling of getting disrespected or overlooked by others. They take these things personal and use their anger as motivation to prove their doubters and haters wrong.

With my experience helping athletes and coaches, I’ve learned the advantages and disadvantages of using anger as motivation.

The obvious advantage of using anger as motivation is that it can be very strong. It can help you stay disciplined and push through the grind. Anger can also burn very intensely, helping you give an extreme amount of effort in games. For these reasons alone, athletes and coaches often embrace anger. I know football coaches who actually prefer to have their team prepare and play angry. They believe that without the motivational boosts of anger, their players can become complacent and lack the effort needed to win. To these athletes and coaches, the motivational benefits of anger over-weigh the negative side effects that can stem from anger. 

While it’s tempting to blindly embrace your anger and use it to succeed, you still have to be aware of the many negative side effects of anger. If uncontrolled, anger can lead you off-the-rails and cause more harm than good.

First of all, using anger for motivation can actually backfire at times. If you’re too angry for too long, you can get emotionally drained, become discouraged, suffer burnout, and lose all your motivation. So make sure you never overdo it when it comes to using anger for motivation.

Secondly, anger directly harms your mental health. You can’t be both angry and truly happy at the same time. If you constantly have a chip on your shoulder, then you can grow to become a bitter, grumpy, ungrateful, and unfriendly person. This can take a toll on your mental heath. As an athlete, you have to ask yourself whether success is worth more than your mental health. At some point, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, if you’re miserable, then it’s not really worth it. When you’re older, you may regret being angry so much as an athlete. You may wish you had spent your youth more happily.

Similarly, anger can negatively affect your character. Yes, sometimes anger can be used for good, but most of the time, anger just makes you a worse person. Anger can make you unfriendly, resentful,  envious, and violent towards others. Instead of making friends, you can spend your entire athletic career making enemies if you let your anger take control of you. As an athlete, you have to ask yourself whether there’s more to life than athletic success. Is athletic success worth more than morality, ethics, virtues, and character? At some point, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, if you’re a terrible person, then it’s not really worth it. When you’re older, you may regret being angry so much as an athlete. You may wish you had been a better person.

Perhaps you’re so obsessed with athletic success that you don’t really care about being a mentally healthy or moral person. Even in this case, you should still be cautious about using anger too much. This is because anger can actually hurt your athletic performance if uncontrolled. For one, anger is an emotion. And when you’re emotional, you can’t always think rationally. When an athlete plays angry, they often make stupid mistakes such as penalties and turnovers. Also, since anger is often fueled by extrinsic motivations such as the need to win and prove your worth, playing angry can cause an athlete to get nervous and choke in games. This is because the goals of winning and proving others wrong are uncertain. This uncertainty can create a fear of failure, which hurts your performance under pressure. So even if anger allows you to give great effort, the negative side effects of anger can actually outweigh its benefits.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons of using anger as motivation. Here is my personal advice:

I think it’s fine to use anger as motivation, but you need to know how to control it. Your goal should be to use anger in a way that improves your work ethic and performance while maintaining your mental health and character. To do this, you need to use anger appropriately. For instance, it’s better to use anger during training rather than in games, where there’s more pressure. Also, you need to make sure your anger doesn’t hurt your relationship with others. My advice is take your anger out only on training, never on people. Lastly, you need to be aware of how your anger is affecting your mental health. If you notice that your anger is preventing you from truly enjoying life, then you need to turn down your anger. Remember that you don’t need to be angry all the time in order to succeed. You need to know that there are times to be angry and dissatisfied, and there are times to be happy and grateful in life.

If you practice this advice and learn how to control your anger, you can succeed in both sports and in life!

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