Keeping Motivation Alive

Picture of Shawn Ray

Shawn Ray

Inside Shawn's World

Keep Motivation Alive In Bodybuilding

All too often, we see a talent come along that looks amazing and leaves a lasting impression on what is possible through hard training and dedication. Then suddenly, that talent has moved on or burned out, never to be fully realized or appreciated. 

But the small glimpse captures something within our spirit that catches fire and begins to ignite our own passions for physical growth and development. 

We see this happen in all disciplines of sport, but when we witness it in bodybuilding, it’s something extra special that we elevate in our visuals and memories, crystallizing in our minds as we return to the gym to try and replicate it within our own individual abilities.

More often than not, we can never replicate these phenomenal individuals’ physiques exactly, but once in a while, we are reminded of some legendary athletes who once were in the form of others. 

This begs the question, how can we keep the fire lit and burning longer into our fitness journeys through what I consider to be the toughest sport on the planet, next to hand-to-hand combat?

I, for one, got hooked on the ability to control the overall look of my body through hard work and dedication, simply by staying focused on my goals and kicking ass in the gym! 

Now, that’s easier said than done, but in hindsight, I guess you could say I was on a mission to be the best! 

Coming up as a young, hungry teenager desperate not to fail at turning my passion into a career, I zeroed in on things that I could control and let go of the things beyond my control, like the final results of a contest.

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The Business Mindset Behind a Champion's Journey

When you find that through training, competing, and repeating this process, it builds you up, you begin to process things differently than if you compete, lose, get discouraged or depressed, and feel like a failure wanting to quit. I, on the other hand, used losing as a stepping stone to building other things. 

I was able to process very early on that losing, in essence, was a one-time contest experience on stage that did not equate to failing at building and sculpting my physique to the degree I was happy with. 

I understood very early on in my 14-year pro career, of which I spent 13 of those years battling for the Mr. Olympia Title, that there could be only one winner. Once this was understood in my psychology, I knew there was more work to be done. I recognized that I didn’t come this far to simply come this far; there was more work to do like marketing, promoting, projecting, branding, and so on, until I coined the phrase, “The Business of Bodybuilding!”

Leveraging Competition for Brand Building and Personal Growth

I didn’t let the end result of a one-time contest determine the rest of my bodybuilding season or my career. I used each contest as a tool to promote myself as a brand. While trying to win the Mr. Olympia was the finish line, the Business of Bodybuilding was the starting line! I loved what I was doing; competing was just a byproduct of my passion, but not the only reason I was lifting weights and dieting. 

I focused on my “perspective” and reminded myself of what the late, great boxer, Muhammad Ali, once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ This quote by the champ always stayed with me as I knew one day the time would come where I’d no longer be competing, and then what?

I didn’t want my passion and my career to somehow get wasted when I knew I could use my experience for the advancement of our sport and to help others coming up behind me achieve their goals as well. Motivation for me comes from “sharing” the journey with others, focusing on achieving my personal goals first and the bigger ones later, not allowing others to define my progress, and always reminding myself that this is a sport of subjective opinion where it is not an exact science, and everyone can be right or wrong at the same time. 

It’s important to also know that you cannot win if you don’t participate; watching is only good for learning, but competing is always a great measurement for progress. Competing for me is where the iron hits the furnace, turning the spark into a flame to be tested and measured against the best of the best! We must reconcile that fear is the greatest deterrent for progress; you can’t win if you don’t participate and challenge yourself! 

The struggle is the fight, and the journey is the test! Contentment comes when you become afraid of the fight; therefore, you miss the test and skip the journey, which is where all the rewards are!

A Lifetime of Passion

I stayed hungry throughout my career and focused year after year on being in the battle and overcoming the struggles through the journey, which gave me purpose to get out of bed, fight the fight, and reap the rewards of continuing to evolve myself into contest promotions, product endorsements, global traveling, Hall of Fame induction, with Lifetime Achievement Awards to show for my dedication to the sport that is always evolving and changing, leaving my fingerprints all over it for the past 40 years of my life.

“It’s the Journey!”

Shawn Ray