If you were told that if you took a road trip across the country a million dollars would be waiting for you at the end of it, would you do it? Who wouldn’t jump at such an opportunity, right?!
Now think about how you would plan that trip. Would you find the fastest car with the best engine and take the fastest route to get there as fast as you could? Or would you take the smaller roads and choose a larger camper van with all the amenities? Maybe you would choose to use a bicycle for parts of the trip or even hike off the beaten path at times on your own two feet? What would you do if you broke down along the way, or ran out of funds or resources to finish the trip? How would you prepare in advance to be able to get back up and running if needed? Who would you turn to for support?
Would you plan key stops along the way, at places you’d always wanted to visit? How long would you stay in each place? Would you take time to visit friends and family? Who, if anyone, would you bring with you on the trip?
After carefully considering the above questions, imagine yourself halfway through your cross-country road trip. What if at the halfway mark, you were told that there would be no guarantee that of any monetary reward being there at the end of your trip? You might only receive as little as 10$ for your trip.
As we head into 2017, perhaps you’re planning some exciting trips, have set some New Year’s resolutions, personal challenges, or competitive goals. As exciting as new intentions feel, many resolutions fail because we focus to much on the final destination, and/or choose them because we feel it is something we should do, the classics like drink less alcohol or watch less TV, eat healthier, exercise more etc.
However, no matter what all the external forces in our lives say as to why we should pursue any health, wellness or performance goals, we still need to find and connect with the intrinsic values in our goals in order to truly enjoy the journey and ultimately be successful at reaching them. Like the road trip metaphor, achieving our goals means taking as much stock in planning the journey as we do in reaching the destination. The desired destination is only reached by regularly focusing our attention on the present journey.
In the athletic world, we are drawn to our chosen sports most often because we experience some initial success. Positive reasons we stay involved are because of enjoyment, social connection, lifestyle, and the intrinsic challenge of continued self-improvement.
When we think of New Year’s resolutions or other goals we’d like to strive towards, as athletes we can recognize and reflect on the journey’s we’ve taken to get in reaching previous goals. Maybe you’d continue to take a similar approach in 2017 or maybe you’d do some things differently. Either way, consider reflecting on the following for any new challenges you’re setting for yourself in 2017:
- What will it take? Like any goal worth pursuing, a degree of discipline, time management and commitment will be needed on a regular basis. Without a plan for when, where, how and how often, it won’t happen. What environment works best to focus on the task and be free from distractions?
- What will make it enjoyable? Let’s face it, even the most challenging goals need to include fun and enjoyment to make them worth pursuing. Can you do it alone, or will you seek need to increase the joy in the pursuit by seeking out others for motivation, support, encouragement and accountability?
- What will be the cost? What will I need to give up to pursue this goal? In our time warped New Year’s optimism it can be easy to forget that pursuing new goals likely means giving up time we normally devote to other activities. Whether it be leisure time, social/family time, sleep time, or work time, it’s important to consider what, if anything needs to be lessened, stopped, or sacrificed to make room for the new goal.
- When and how will I evaluate whether to keep pursuing this goal? As an athlete, you likely have experienced those feelings of satisfaction from increased strength, endurance, or improved skills that comes after several weeks, months or even years of training, with all its highs and lows. Whether an initial commitment to a new goal lasts several weeks, months, or a full year, it is important to take time to ask yourself every so often – is this still worth it? What criteria you use evaluating the pursuit? It will depend on your life stage and your values; your current definitions of success, quality of life, overall enjoyment and life balance.
- What do I value about this goal that is separate from any performance related outcomes that may result? In other words, if you never reached your ultimate outcome goal, would you still pursue it? This also relates to self-compassion and not beating ourselves up when we fall short – can you commit to unconditional self-acceptance and to be kind to yourself even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal? Like the road trip, if you never reach your ultimate destination will the trip still be worth it?