Coach Tip Tuesday: What is Preventing You from Reaching Your Goals?
The end of a year can be an interesting and complex time. For many, this time of year prompts reflection and forward thinking. While somewhat paradoxical, I do think that both things are helpful, both for us as humans and for us as endurance athletes.
Last week we discussed what it actually means to set a goal. This week, we’re discussing what I feel is the natural counterpart to that conversation: What is preventing you from reaching your goals?
Reflecting on Past Goals and Goal Setting
In order to determine what is preventing you from reaching your goals, we need to set a bit of a framework around our analysis and reflection. As we established last week, a goal is a thing that you have deemed to be a higher priority than other things.
Looking back on the goals that you set for yourself this past year: Did your actions reflect this truth? Did you engage in consistent, tangible action throughout the year that indicated that your goal was more important than other things? To effectively determine this, you need to take an honest look at how you spent your time this past year, both on a daily basis and on a more broad/global scale (meaning week-by-week and month-by-month).
If more people truly tracked - even for just a week - how they spend their daily time, the insights gleaned from that tracking would likely be very illuminating. In fact, it’s highly likely that results from tracking one’s time will be embarrassing. I’ve urged many, many athletes to do this over the years, and one of the most common pieces of feedback I get is that they give up on tracking their time after 1-2 days because they’re embarrassed and/or disgusted by what truly tracking their time reveals.
Why is it embarrassing? Because the truth is that many, many people are spending their “free” time (meaning time not spent at work or sleeping) on digital devices, on activities that they don’t actually care about, and/or doing not much of anything at all. It’s worth noting that for others, the embarrassing part of their tracking results comes from how much time they are spending working. All of this to say that my experience has taught me that many - if not most - people truly lack an awareness of how they are spending their time on a daily basis.
“I don’t have time for that” is a common response from athletes to a variety of suggestions and ideas I bring up in conversation about their training or how to approach certain aspects of their training. And for some athletes, this might literally be true. But what I’ve observed to be more true is that most of us don’t have a lack of time. Most of us have an overabundance of everything else that we’re trying to cram into our available time. While it’s true that time is a zero-based budget and it is our most precious resource since it is finite and non-renewable, it’s also true that we’re mismanaging our use of time, which creates this feeling of time scarcity. Furthermore, often that “everything else” includes things that, when we are prompted to actually confront and examine them, are not actually that important to us. At the very least, there are things that we’re doing that are not as important to us as our time budgets reflect.
Was it the Right Goal?
Once we reflect on how we spent our time nad whether our actions aligned with what we said was important to us, another important question to ask is the following:
Was this the right goal for me?
By “right goal for me”, I truly mean that - was it the right goal for you. Not was it a goal that sounded good. Not was it a goal that was right for someone else. Was this a goal that was right for you?
Your level of engagement with goals are often directly linked to your level of enthusiasm for said goal. Were your past goals something that you were truly excited about? Were your goals authentic? Were they in alignment with your core values? If the answer isn’t a clear and resounding “yes” to most (if not all) of these questions, it’s very possible that the goals you set in the past were not the right goals for you.
Our analysis and reflection of the past year can highlight some important truths for us to comfort and take into consideration as we look forward to any goals we are setting in the future. Asking questions and answering them honestly is an important part of this process.
What limitations do you have?
This is a question that can be answered both by looking backward and when considering future goals. Chances are you are aware of some of these already, even if the honest answers to this question make you feel uncomfortable. Part of the answer is tied to who you are in terms of your behaviors. (For instance, what do you actually do? Not what do you say you’re going to do or what you do wish you were doing. What do you actually do?) Another part of the answer is tied to what you have going on in a given season of your life. (For instance, what are the true and real demands of your work life, parenting life, personal life, etc.?)
What are the requirements of the event you want to do?
This is an important question to ask, both to help determine specificity in your training and to help fully answer the first question about limitations. Once you lay out exactly what the event you want to do is going to require, you can determine if any of those required things are weaknesses for you and/or fall within a category of limitations for you. Then, you need to ask (and answer) a hard question: Are you willing to do what it takes to address what it takes to improve your limitations so you give yourself the highest probability of successfully meeting your goal?
The Bottom Line
Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, the simple and hard truth is that the number one thing that prevents us from reaching goals we set for ourselves is, in fact, ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves so we can get out of our own way on the path to achieving what is important to us. A combination of self-reflection and pragmatic forward thinking can help us do just that.
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.