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Creed II and Extrinsic/Intrinsic motivation: Part 2

When we left our two combatants, they were in despair as their motivation waned. Viktor learnt that his external motivations were at odds with his internal ones, creating internal conflict. Adonis learnt he was lacking the motivation that would bring him victory.

In part I, we explored how Ivan (Viktor’s father) and Viktor argued about whether they needed external accolades from their country; Ivan believed they did, and Viktor felt frustrated by this. It is important to understand that when Ivan fought Rocky in the past, he was motivated by the same desire for approval that he was trying to impart onto his son. Viktor’s frustration was increased by the internal conflict between trusting his father, wanting to gain his father’s approval, and not wanting to fight for the approval of people who did not value him beyond what he could accomplish for them. Unfortunately, he confused the anger resulting from this conflict for greater drive (motivation), which increased his internal conflict… noticing a pattern?

In Viktor, we see how a fatal flaw with external motivation (the creating of a cycle of inner conflict) can have a disastrous, compounding effect.

Now, lets’ consider Adonis.

Adonis also blamed his loss on external forces, as he was preoccupied with Rocky’s refusal to train him (which Adonis saw as a lack of support and belief from Rocky). This highlights a benefit of external motivation: it’s never your fault, it’s always someone or something else that has caused your defeat. This can be positive for the psyche, because the individual bares no responsibility for the outcomes and is absolved of wrongdoing, which removes the need to change. Life is easier then, because changing oneself is very difficult. By blaming external forces, you have a quick fix with minimal physical and mental exertion.

How awesome is that?! You may think I’m being ironic, but I’m not. Sometimes you do need a quick fix, and sometimes the biggest problems you may face are external.

The problems arise because, when you act in this way, you surrender any and all autonomy you have to remedy the situation or prevent it happening in future. For example, let’s say Adonis gets a new trainer, and that trainer also abandons him. Now what? Should he wait for the world to change, and hope that a new trainer comes to him and doesn’t leave? Or should he adapt and grow, and develop a training program of his own, or seek out a new trainer?

That’s something only he can answer (and, in your own life, something only you can answer).

In Adonis’ case, his family and friends continued to suggest that he take another route (without blaming external forces), by continually questioning him about his motivation. Rocky, Adonis’ mother, and Adonis’ wife continually asked him why he was doing what he was doing. His mother barked, “Don’t pretend this is about your father”. It’s as if they knew something he didn’t, which highlights another beneficial facet of external motivation: it can serve as a course correct. Finally, when pressed by his wife on why he wants another fight with Viktor, Adonis said, “If you don’t do the things you love, then you wouldn’t exist”. In this moment, Adonis realised that he wanted to fight Viktor because he loved fighting and everything that came with it. He rediscovered that he was a person who sought out, and thrived in, battle. “Fighters fight” - and Adonis was a fighter.

Understanding your internal motivation endows you with an unshakeable drive. Why? Because you know that not doing it is like a death; as Adonis says, if you don’t do it, you wouldn’t exist. By doing whatever it is that drives you internally, you can’t lose. What is it that they say about people with nothing to lose?

Now, I know I’m being dramatic. I get it. But let’s take a moment to examine great accomplishments: almost every great accomplishment in history caused the person accomplishing it unspeakable heartache and hardship. Why didn’t they just give up? Because, for them, giving up would be tantamount to death.

When Adonis recognised his internal drive - his intrinsic motivation - he was able to use his external factors (family, friends, accolades, approval, etc.) as aids to his internal drive. They were the ‘cherries on top’ instead of the foundation, which meant there was something solid for his motivation to stand on. With his internal motivation as Adonis’ main driver, he was courageous enough to stand up to, and vanquish, his internally conflicted foe.

Usually, this would be the end of a Rocky film, but Creed II uses the “villains” to highlight enduring utility of knowing what internally drives you.

As the second fight builds to a crescendo, and Viktor’s defeat becomes apparent, the Russian fans abandon him and his father (again). When Viktor finally gets dropped in the last round, he looks to his mother for motivation to beat the count, but finds only an empty seat. Father and son are both left abandoned and, in this moment, the film gives the impression that the Drago’s are done fighting.

To everyone’s surprise (both characters and viewers), Viktor surges with courage and beats the count. We aren’t certain what inspired him to do this (hence my desire for a Drago film!), but once he rose, Adonis continued to batter him. Seeing this, Ivan stepped onto the apron and throws in the towel, saving his son from his own bravery, and consoles a distraught Viktor. Remember: Ivan wanted external accolades and unconditional love, and believed that receiving those from his country was also necessary for his son. However, in that moment, he realised he could give those things to his son, because Viktor wanted his father’s approval more than the approval of anyone else. What Ivan learnt was that being a good father overrode his desire for public acclaim.

As always, Rocky teaches us important lessons. Here, it was that it’s never too late to find what really drives you - your internal motivation - even in defeat. You can immediately begin making decisions that serve your life in better ways, no matter what is happening in the moment. The final scene, where the Drago’s are training together, highlights this, as it starkly contrasts with the rest of the film’s portrayal of their relationship where Ivan behaved as an oppressive dictator over his son.

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