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Why hockey players struggle with motivation (How to "Dopamine Maximize" for ENDLESS MOTIVATION this offseason)

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For most of my life, I would consider myself a pretty motivated person.

Through my hockey career, I was motivated to be successful in hockey.

Now I am motivated to coach and teach hockey and build my business.

But there has always been a problem I noticed when it came to motivation.

I would:

  1. Set a big goal for myself

  2. I would get hyped up and ready to absolutely crush it

  3. I might lay a plan out, or set up a to-do list

  4. The within next the few days, I would not have the same motivation to do the work

  5. This would continue for most days

  6. When it came to actually doing the stuff I needed to do…

  7. I didn’t feel as “motivated” as I did when I set the goal.

  8. I would then be mad because I thought I WANTED this!

  9. When hard tasks came up I would often procrastinate and just scroll on my phone

  10. Sometimes I would skip the work session I had planned all altogether and just watch hockey YouTube videos

I am not proud of this.

For example: whenever something hard came up like doing a hard cardio session, a hill run, an ice bath, etc - my motivation would drop off to very low levels. I would then try to avoid doing it.

I knew I wanted to do the work.

I knew it was important to do the work to build my cardio or speed.

But I just did not feel MOTIVATED to do the work.

The Common Answer

I know the common answer here is to shut up and do the work.

Or it’s about using some sort of motivational technique, or positive affirmation.

It’s the: “JUST DO IT!” mentality.

It’s the "David Goggin’s Approach" of shutting up and carrying the boats haha.

And yes I do think there is a time and place for this type of technique. I talk about this here in a bit of detail in my Identity Letter about How Negative Self Talk Is The Better Self Talk

When you're in the moment, shouting this stuff out loud, or just in your head can help drive you to do more and push beyond your limits.

But there comes a point where you can’t become reliant on motivational talk, videos, or speeches to get you out of bed every morning or to do the hard work you don't wanna do.

Eventually, they just won’t do it for you anymore.

This is what happens with drugs too.

You can see:

  • The "dose" a person takes in yellow

  • The "high" a person feels in red

(just a conceptual drawing, not real study data)

You have to keep taking more of the drug to get a similar high.

But over time, even if you take more, the high slowly diminishes as your body acclimates to the substance (this is very dumbed-down science, but it helps to make the point).

Many hockey players use motivational videos and shout affirmations in the mirror like drugs. They get a “high” from it. Be there is a problem...

They have to watch more and more videos to get a similar effect.

They have to shout the affirmations louder and louder for longer and longer to get the same energy to go out and do the work.

Eventually, these players have to watch a 30-minute motivational video or read a 20-minute-long affirmation script to get off their ass and go do the work.

Many times we will end up being late or missing the workout, the stretch, or the skills session we had planned.

What’s worse is that we end up learning to use things like social media, video games, etc to AVOID the negative emotions that come with being late to, or missing our commitments.

This is what I call the Procrastination Cycle.

This is typically how the Procrastination Cycle goes:

  1. Miss an important task on the calendar, or only do part of it

  2. Feel bad for missing it

  3. To avoid the “bad feeling” go on the phone (this distracts from emotion)

  4. Distracted by their phone and miss the next thing

  5. Never address the emotions which means they build up in them over time

  6. Express that emotion at a bad time like yelling at a teammate, or slamming their stick on the board

Many people will have their version of this.

But this is a pretty common problem players face.

It’s not a recipe for long-term success as an athlete.

Now of course comes the obvious question…

What is the recipe for long-term success as an athlete?

First off, I do not have a “perfect” answer to this, but I am working on it.

Second, my theory on long-term success is that it is key to:

  1. Look inside our MIND

  2. Understand how desire, motivation, and dopamine work

  3. Learn how to set a clear vision of what you want

  4. Learn to get the most out of your dopamine to motivate you for success (Dopamine Maximization)

Once you have these things sorted out, I believe you have the best chance at Maximizing your ability and success as a hockey player and in all other areas of life!

What’s Going On Inside Our Mind?

I realized after looking back at my career, that I did indeed do a lot of work.

But most of that was the work that other people scheduled for me.

Yes, I hit the gym hard and did extra skates, but I missed a lot of the key things I ALSO wanted to do.

I skipped a ton of:

  • Meditations

  • Visualizations

  • Stickhandling sessions

  • Shooting sessions

  • Stretches

  • Second workouts

  • Meals

  • Extra naps

  • Etc.

These were things I didn’t really "want" to do when I was busy and had a lot of tasks to complete in my day!

So I pushed them off more than I should have.

I knew that I was missing these things, and subconsciously I knew it would hurt my game, but I struggled to keep myself on track.

I went through the Procrastination Cycle many times.

This led me to push my important tasks to later and later in the day.

This led me to be very anti-social in my year in the CCHL which I believe played a strong role in my becoming pretty depressed for several months.

After that year, I wanted to understand what was going on in my mind that was causing me to avoid these hard things.

What was it that was stopping me from really pushing to that next level in my preparation?

Was it that I secretly didn’t want to succeed?

Was it that I secretly hated myself?

I wasn’t sure.

I found that now even as I build a business I have at times run into the same problem of avoiding the hard things.

I see so many players struggling because they want to be great players, but they struggle to stay consistent with:

  • Crushing their body in the gym

  • Doing the sprints

  • Pushing the sleds

  • Running the cardio

  • Skating the extra laps

  • Shooting the extra shots

  • Doing the extra stickhandling work

I know many people will blame it on the player in this situation and say: “They just don’t want it enough”.

But I don’t fully agree.

Yes, it’s the player's responsibility to change.

But it’s not their fault they don’t have the tools to Maximize their Dopamine and get what they want out of life and their career.

There are so many distractions out there like social media, video games, and tv that are trying to pull us away from what we really want.

There are billions of dollars spent trying to change what you are thinking about (advertising teams, social media, technology companies, etc).

They don’t want us to be motivated to get what we want.

They want us to buy their products.

Yes, I do have products that I sell too, but they are designed to help you get what you truly want in hockey and live your best life.

These other people are often pulling us towards what they want.

It’s pulling us away from our dreams.

If this is happening to you, things have to change.

I want them to change for you.

Understanding Desires

I believe it’s key to start at the base of why we do things.

The mind is quite complicated, and there is a ton more science for me to read.

But this is my best attempt at giving you a simple understanding of how the mind works in a way that will help you improve. (I don’t think you need to know all of the structures of the brain to benefit from Dopamine Maximization, so we will focus on what helps you improve).

First, it’s important to distinguish between desire and motivation.

Desire is wanting something.

I’m sure you want to:

  • Be a great hockey player

  • Score more goals

  • Get more ice time

  • Play in a better league

But you see, lots of people WANT things.

But only so many people get them.

Only so many people are able to do the work to go from where they are, to making it happen.

Yes, some players are more naturally talented than others, but there are many players who find a way to improve year after year despite not winning the talent latter.

So what is it that drives these people to improve year after year?

Is it passion or love of the game?

I think that plays a strong part in it.

I believe the most important factor is motivation.

Motivation & Dopamine

Often times people think motivation is the same thing as desire. I think they are different.

Desire is wanting something.

Motivation is having a singular focus on something and acting on it.

Motivation is being focused on and because of that your actions align.

I want lots of things, but I am only motivated by a few things.

I want to eat ice cream for breakfast, but I am motivated to eat healthy. This is my focus because I have a target of being healthy.

From my research, I have found that motivation is primarily driven by the neurotransmitter DOPAMINE in our body.

When we think of dopamine we often think of pleasure.

But this is not necessarily the case.

“Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, when we have sex, after we exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them.” - by Trevor Haynes (Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences) LINK

Dopamine motivates us or drives us to do the things that we desire.

Watch Doctor Andrew Huberman break this down:

Interestingly, dopamine actually seems to be the thing that gets us to do the things we want to do.

When we want something we get a spike of dopamine like the mouse does below 👇

Then it reinforced our behaviour when we got the reward.

It both:

  1. Motivates us to take action to get rewards

  2. Reinforces actions that got us rewards in the past (see the massive spike at the end).

Here is how I break this down:

For example:

  1. You desire to get better at shooting.

  2. So you get a hit of dopamine

  3. The dopamine motivates you to get up and go work on your shot in the driveway

  4. You then do the work.

  5. After 30 minutes you actually notice how much you improved which is a pleasurable experience for you.

  6. More dopamine is released which reenforces the behaviour of shooting.

So really if we are not taking the actions we want, I believe it is because:

  1. We are not getting pleasure from the thing (so we don’t see it as rewarding)

  2. We don’t have the

A motivated person does not get distracted because he has a lot of dopamine that is driving him to get the reward.

He has a desire, then the dopamine drives him to take action to make it happen.

That’s why a person with low dopamine can easily lose motivation.

If you want to get better at hockey you need to have high dopamine.

If you have low dopamine, it is far harder to take action to get the things you want.

With low dopamine, instead of taking action and doing the hard things, a dopamine-depleted person (or a person with low dopamine sensitivity) will do the easiest thing to get the most dopamine.

Dopamine Depletion Is Crushing You

If you think of the amount of dopamine you have each day as juice in a lemon then it means you have limited juice to squeeze each day.

The harder the squeeze, the more juice that comes out.

The more juice that comes out, the less you will have later (or the less sensitive you will be to the motivation molecule later)

Things that squeeze our dopamine lemon very hard are things like:

  • Social media

  • Video games

  • “Sexy pictures/videos”

  • TV

Think about things that are:

  • Big

  • Shiny

  • Colourful

  • Loud

  • Exciting

These things squeeze a ton of dopamine because they take very little effort to create the reward.

Now the problem is that if you squeeze out all of the juice from that lemon early on in the day, you will have very little juice to squeeze for other things.

This is what happens with things like using social media, or video games early in the day.

Doing this early in the day squeezes out your motivation molecule and leaves you with far less dopamine.

Now, your brain will not have the dopamine to do the harder things.

Instead, it will be far more likely to go back to the things that give it the largest reward, for the least effort (social media, tv, etc).

Why Desire Is Not Enough

Now you can probably see the problem.

So many players in the world WANT to be great hockey players (have desires).

But very few people are able to maintain that singular focus (motivation) to get what they want.

I believe there are many factors that play a part in this:

  • Where you were born

  • Parental influences

  • DNA

  • etc

But the main one that I believe is plaguing the world right now is depleted dopamine from technology use.

I know this affected me when I was playing. but I am even more aware of it now with how advanced technology has become.

When it came to running and cardio for example:

  1. I knew I needed to do it to reach my goals

  2. But I put it off 50% of the time

  3. I would still have the desire to do it, but my focus would drift to other things

Can you relate?

What’s worse is every time I pushed my runs back, or skipped them, I developed something called: ANXIETY COST

Here is how Chris Williamson explains it:

So it’s safe to say life is not as fun when you are dealing with these things.

I have always heard the concept of doing "hard things first" or "knocking off the important tasks early".

But I didn’t really understand why that mattered until I dug into the neuroscience and psychological research on this stuff.

I didn’t have a desire problem. I didn’t have a lack of vision about what I wanted.

I had a dopamine problem.

That is why I now focus on something I call dopamine Maximizing.

The benefits I and many other people I have studied who use similar techniques report that Dopamine Maximizing has led to:

  1. More motivation to do the things we want to do

  2. Working harder

  3. Getting more things done

  4. Enjoy things more

  5. Feeling less stressed

  6. Living a better/happier life

How To Dopamine MAXIMIZE

There are 4 basic steps and 8 advanced steps I am currently focused on to Maximize my dopamine.

I am going to be teaching these techniques in depth to all of our Academy Members.

Each plays a key role in maximizing the amount of dopamine we have (increasing baseline) or it helps us better manage whatever dopamine we do have effectively.

Remember that dopamine is what motivates us and reinforces our behaviours.

So learning to make more of it, and use it effectively might be the most important thing you do this offseason!

Basic DM Techniques

(Increase baseline levels of dopamine)

  1. Increase the quality of sleep (so you can increase dopamine in the system)

  2. Use yoga nidra to replenish dopamine midday (without causing grogginess)

    1. Also can be called Non-Sleep Deep Rest

    2. Can bring up dopamine baseline levels +65%

  3. Increase Tyrosine (google what foods have Tyrosine)

  4. Morning sunlight

    1. As early as possible

    2. Sunny day - 5 minutes minimum (Aim for 10)

    3. Cloudy day - 10 minutes minimum (aim for 20)

    4. Face sun (not directly at it)

    5. Don’t wear sunglasses

Advanced DM Techniques

(Manage dopamine you do have)

  1. Start the day with low dopamine-squeezing activities (harder tasks) to increase dopamine sensitivity

  2. Start with cold exposure (Steady dopamine release)

  3. Complete the most important tasks first (when motivation is highest due to the highest dopamine)

  4. For first void things that squeeze dopamine hard (like video games, social media, porn, etc.)

  5. Learn something new (increases dopamine)

  6. Set new PR (increases dopamine)

  7. Deal with negative lingering emotions that might be causing me to using avoidance behaviours like (scrolling social media)

  8. Relax later in the day with harder squeezes (Watching 30-60 minutes of TV)

Give these a try in your training system

I bet if you implement even a few you will be in a much better place in terms of:

  1. Being more motivated to do the things you want to do

  2. Working harder

  3. Getting more things done

  4. Enjoying things more

  5. Feeling less stressed

  6. Living a better/happier life

Hope this was valuable to you!

See you at the next level,


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Who is Corson Searles?

I am a former player & mental/performance advisor for AAA, junior, college, and pro hockey players. I am obsessed with dissecting atheletic performance potential, lifestyle design, and hockey development.


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