But then he had a realization: no amount of validation from team management would help him feel like the footballer he wanted to be and knew he was. That confidence had to come from within.
At that point, he decided to practice and thought he would play every minute. He has to give his all regardless of external circumstances. He went on to reach the semifinals and finals and helped lead his team to victory. O’Hara credits his change in mindset with the results he was able to achieve. This is why he thinks motivation needs to be internal, not external.
“To be able to find that validation internally and see and get that merit from yourself is life-changing, honestly,” says O’Hara. “If I hadn’t made that change in mindset, I don’t know if I would have had the success I had in that World Cup.”
Sports psychology also recognizes this distinction, with the categories of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when what motivates you to exercise or perform comes from within, like feeling good or sleeping well or something along those lines. While extrinsic motivation is winning awards or recognition from other people.
O’Hara acknowledges that, of course, it’s great to have authority figures and validation from others. Winning is also part of what motivates him. But if you’re going to achieve, you need a foundation of self-acceptance, she says.
To get there, it’s important to find your motivation. That’s part of the reason O’Hara has signed a partnership with Versus, a new digital sports coaching and motivational platform. On the site, pro-athletes and coaches like O’Hara share stories and advice from the world of professional sports. It’s also about building a supportive community.
Having both elements—internal strength, and external support—O’Hara believes humans need to thrive.
“Support systems are incredible, and they’re amazing, and they’re so important to improving the world,” O’Hara said “But you have to find that belief in yourself before you can validate it.”