Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“A few years ago, I started seeing a sports psychologist. I was inconsistent, and I couldn’t figure out why. I’d play one game well, then play another and feel as though I didn’t even belong on the ice.
“The first time with the psychologist, I didn’t know what to expect, as I’d never discussed anything like this before. He gave off a relaxed, confident vibe, as if he knew all about my problem already. After I explained the situation, he spoke as if he hadn’t heard a thing I’d said. He asked one simple question: ‘Why do you even play hockey?’ I quickly responded, saying, ‘Because it’s fun.’ But he said that wasn’t the real answer.
“I sat there, dumbstruck. Why do I really play hockey? Was it just something I’d started and never stopped? Shouldn’t there be a reason why I’d spent thousands of hours playing this game? At the end of the session, he told me to have a better answer for him next time. As I thought it over, I realized I had to understand exactly what my motivation was, and that led me to a new discovery.
“I’ve learned there are many things I do because of external motivators. This means my actions are motivated by other people’s standards and expectations, or by punishments and rewards. When I feel pressure from my parents to do something I don’t want to do, like clean my room or let my mom be a chaperone at prom, that’s an external motivator. External motivators aren’t always a bad thing, especially when you’re younger and still figuring out who you are and how to be in the world.
“Internal motivators, on the other hand, come from within. They drive us to act according to our own expectations, standards, or personal goals. For example, I like to try and do well in school, because I know that in the future, it will pay off, as I will hopefully find myself in an outcome that I enjoy.
“The biggest difference between the two motivations is that external motivators are not sustainable. You can only do something you don’t enjoy for so long until it becomes unbearable. On the other hand, the people you are trying to please now won’t be around forever. If you don’t set your own standards and create your own goals, what will you do when there is no one else to do that for you?
“I believe it’s all about finding a balance between the two motivations. It’s impossible to live life without external motivators - without the world dictating what you do and when you do it to some extent. But if we set our own standards and have our own reasons for getting out of bed, we can decide things for ourselves, pursue our own dreams, and own the choices we make every day.
“So even though it took some time, I learned to see my reasons for playing hockey as due to both external and internal motivators. The demands and expectations of coaches, teammates, and family, were all still important, but I started to find that I was also playing for myself, and I was working to meet my own personal standards and reach goals I had set. With this new insight, the gap between my great and terrible games slowly started to close. Not every game is always great, and I still have a long way to go. But every time I get frustrated, I simply remember I’m playing not only to please other people or earn a reward, but also for myself. Then I smile and love the game even more. And I’ve found this lesson connects to my life as a whole, both on and of the ice.
“So I would say if there’s one thing to take away from this speech, it would be to take a moment and ask yourself, “What do I want to do, and why do I want to do it?” If you can’t find a solid answer, one that includes both internal and external motivators, then I’d start looking for something new. Thank you.”