Monday, January 30, 2012

Nothing kills motivation like monotony

Nothing kills motivation like monotony 

I spent this past weekend winter camping with my Venture Company (2nd Nashwaaksis Venturers). The main activity that we had for the weekend was to complete the planning for our upcoming adventure race (The Nine Toe Winter Run). The race is a 5 hour orienteering race, on snowshoes. Our task this weekend was to complete a run through of the advanced course.

The advanced course is designed so that we could complete it at a fast hike, knowing where the checkpoints are located, within 7 hours. That would give us a course distance that should be appropriate for a fast racer with good navigation skills to complete it in 5 hours.

We started hiking the course at 5pm on Saturday evening. The first couple of hours were easy going and we didn't have any motivation problems. As the hours started dragging on, and as the kilometers started racking up, the team's motivations started to wain. The mental stress of doing nothing, but putting one foot in front of the other, was too much. It was turning from a nice night hike into a looooong walk.

We came to a crossroads where we had a choice, take a longer detour and follow a highway back to our camp or bushwhack on a direct route. Many of the guys wanted to take the highway because it was predicable and easier. However, we convinced them to do the bushwhacking instead. It was a quicker route and it would be more interesting. A 10km detour on the highway sounded like a death march.

As it turns out, the first part of this bushwhack was very hard. The bush was thick and the woods were pitch black. We were literally crawling through some of the bush.

The interesting thing about this was the effect that it had on moral. Instead of dragging their feet and complaining, the guys were stoked. We were yelling and laughing and charging through the underbrush like madmen. We were faster in that brutal section than we were in any of the actual trail sections. We ended the hike invigorated ...but slept well!

Whether in the bush or at a desk, the best motivation is a challenging task.

Question: What strategies have you used for motivating people?

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