Coach Tip Tuesday: Do you want to? Or do you want to want to?
Every athlete I’ve ever worked with has started out with the best of intentions. They want to [insert goal here]. That goal could be to get into a consistent routine of exercise, it could be to complete a specific distance or type of race. Even athletes who say they are not goal-oriented are goal oriented in some way; there is something that they are seeking to get out of engaging with endurance sports or exercise.
This being said, while every athlete I’ve ever worked with has absolutely started out with the best of intentions, I have watched many athletes not achieve what they set out to do. There are so many reasons why this might be true, but one of the most common ones is a paradoxical conundrum: They want to want to; they don’t really want to.
Is this a harsh assessment? Perhaps. But if you look in the mirror and are honest with yourself, I think you’ll be able to see that every single one of us has encountered at least one “want to want to” situation in our lives at some point. We wanted to want to help someone. We wanted to want to make a certain change. We wanted to want to get something accomplished. We wanted to want to be something. And - for whatever reason - we didn’t. The reality is that the idea of what we wanted to do was not in alignment with what the reality of what the process of really doing what we said we wanted to do looks like.
It’s super common in exercise and endurance sports to encounter people who want to get into fitness, to be athletes, to lead a healthy lifestyle. They want to be consistent. They want to do races, whether they are races that they want to do or races that their friends are doing. They want to achieve their best performances and/or see what they are capable of.
All of this comes from a place of good intentions and honest desire, but when they get started with the process of doing what they said they want to do, sometimes it’s just too…something. Too hard. Too much. Too time-consuming. Too expensive.
You know what? This is okay. It’s okay to have an idea to do something and then realize that it’s not for you. It’s even okay to start to do something and then realize it’s not right for you. (As I often say: “I reserve the right to change my mind.”) It’s okay to start off with a vision of something and realize that you need to recast that vision. In my experience, what is most important is honestly assessing a given situation and then admitting (out loud) that this is where you’re at…that what you wanted to want to do is not what you actually want to do now.
We’ve all heard the phrase actions speak more loudly than words. This is effectively what I’m talking about here. What we want in our minds is not always the same as what we can or want to actually execute with our actions. This could be a temporary truth (such as something that we want isn’t realistic in a given season of life) or it could be an overall, long-term truth (such as that we like the idea of something more than we’re actually willing to do the something). And this is very, very okay. We are not horrible or terrible human beings because if we find ourselves coming to these realizations. We’re just…human. We only have a finite amount of time and energy, and sometimes, we realize that we either need to or would rather spend our time and energy doing something different than what we originally thought we wanted.
My advice to all athletes is to ask themselves the following question when considering anything to do with endurance sports, whether it is a specific goal, the training to get to said goal, an exercise routine, or anything else:
Do I want to do this? Or, do I want to want to do this?
Like I always recommend: Be brutally honest with yourself. Face the mirror with open eyes, even if you don’t love what you see there initially. It’s only through honest self-assessment and self-awareness that we can truly unlock what we want to do and achieve what we really want for ourselves. By asking yourself this important question, you set yourself up for more happiness and success over time.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.