Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Do You Have The Right Goals?

Many athletes are familiar with a postseason assessment and know that there is tremendous value in assessing whether or not you reached your goals. Then digging into what went right and what went wrong along the way will help you chart a better path forward for the upcoming season. 

But we might be missing a step. Before assessing whether or not you were successful at accomplishing your season goals, it's important to determine whether you set the right goals to begin with. It is tempting to select numbers/paces/outcomes that are simply the next logical step in your triathlon development, rather than asking yourself why you care and whether or not your goals are in alignment with how much sacrifice you are both willing and able to make.

When you read the line above: how much sacrifice you are willing and able to make, did you get excited because you identify as the kind of athlete who is willing to make all of the sacrifices? Or did you feel a twinge of self defeat because you think you may be unable to make enough sacrifices? The invitation here is to look at it from a different angle and investigate the nuances that will lead to your most aligned goals. 

Why Is This Important?

When your goals align with what truly matters to you, they inspire you to uphold the process. The key is that the goals are the vehicle, not the destination. Ideally, you will find something that you're so wildly passionate about that it inspires you to get up every morning and do the work. Striving towards mastery requires intentionality. There is no accidental success.

How To Investigate:

Asking why your goals matter can be a hard question to answer. The part of our brain that influences behavior and decisions does not have the capacity for language. So what's most important is to take an honest look at our goals and notice if we feel something come alive within us when we think about the pursuit. Don't answer, just notice. Your body / emotional response will come first, quickly followed by a stream of judgment and over-analysis. Pay attention to the first part. 

The Questions:

1. When you close your eyes and think about your goals, what do you see? Do you see the outcome, the glorious achievement? Or do you see the process, the relentless grind; do you see yourself doing the work that others aren't willing to do? And more importantly, how do you feel when you visualize your goals? Are you proud of yourself? Do you feel joy or relief? 

Pursuing any worthy goal will require you to get uncomfortable. Pursuing a goal that aligns with your values and desires will keep you motivated to push through the grind. It is wonderful to hold the outcome as your vision, as long as you are also in it for the process, learning opportunities, and growth that will be inevitable along the way.

2. Are your goals realistic within the context of your life? How were you able to balance the pursuit of your goals with the rest of your life? Did you prioritize mental health? Did you approach burnout and feel emptied out during the season or did you allow training to fill your mental and emotional tank?

The purpose here is not to compromise your goals. There is a way to allow your goals and your life to feed each other that is completely unique to you. Allow these questions to inspire you to think of creative solutions to any potential problems that come up. Maybe there's a more efficient way to fit your workouts in. Maybe you need to adjust the timeline of your goals. Perhaps you need to communicate more effectively with your partner/friends/boss about how to make this work for everyone.

3. What story do your goals tell about your life? Have they inspired new habits and/or thought patterns? Are they a tribute to your ambition, your perseverance, your grit? Or do your goals come from a scarcity mindset or sense of unworthiness (i.e. I'll be a real athlete when I break this time barrier; I'll be able to rationalize the time/money/energy I spend pursuing my goals if I can just accomplish this goal or validate myself with this result)?

The key here is that aligned goals will speak to who you are right now rather than who you will be when you achieve them. Tell the most inspiring story you can imagine.

Now What?

It's possible that some of these realizations will make you uncomfortable and uncertain about how to proceed. Start with acceptance. Be radically honest about where you are right now, even if it's hard to acknowledge the gap between your current reality and your bold new goals. 

In a sport where so few of us "win" in a conventional way, my invitation through this process is to redefine what winning means to you. As you reflect on some of the bigger questions, ideally you will gain a more intimate understanding of why you, specifically, are drawn to triathlon. Maybe you only have a few hours a week to dedicate to training, and winning becomes the pursuit of total immersive presence in those few hours, which leads to total immersive presence in other areas of your life. Maybe winning is less about a race result and more about how well you learn to deal with adversity. Maybe you realize that just showing up for yourself every day and making more room for the things that bring you joy is as radical and worthy of celebration as any podium placement.

Acknowledge The Journey:

Once you've settled on your goals and feel ready to begin the process towards next season, keep in mind that you will not be able to predict how this will all play out. Your why will only light the path a few feet in front of you at a time. You'll have to rely on your habits and trust that the path will not be linear. You will not get to choose the specific type of adversity that you'll face along your journey. You will have to be open, flexible, an accepting - especially when it's hard. But when you are armed with the right goals for you, anything is possible.

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