For many of us, we’re in the offseason right now, or soon will be. That means starting to think towards goals for sport (and life) for the next year, ideally a bit ahead of the classic 1/1 New Year’s Resolution ‘deadline.’ So, if you’re struggling with a bit of overwhelm or pull in a million directions, I’ve been playing with a series of questions you may want to ask yourself, for each goal that you are setting:
At what cost?
Pursuing any goal is going to require some kind of sacrifice, so it’s better to be clear—if a bit dramatic—at the outset. Start with your big scary goal, at maximum volume. Time, money, effort, energy, relationships: Channel your inner dramatically inclined persona for this one here, and get a little wild coming up with cost. Start with the basic ‘at what cost’ (driving to trailheads on weekends, actual cost of the race/new bike/travel to race). Get as dramatic as you want from there: If it is a big scary goal, things like ‘I won’t have time to hang out with/ride with friends in the months beforehand’ could be on the list.
READ MORE: Can You Prepare for The Goal You Have Set?
What other goals are going to “interfere”?
The promotion at work, renovating your house, writing that book—list out the other goals that you have in any other area of your life next to the athletic goals you have for next season. When we had Pierre Quinn on the podcast this summer, one of my favorite things we talked about was creating the massive list of all of your goals, all written in one place. Do that, and you quickly see that your goals, when taken as a whole, are nearly impossible to hit in the same calendar year. Spending more time with family while banking a million and training for Ironman? Those are three entirely different goals, and no one has the time to hit all three, unless you have some kind of quantum time disruption machine…
What’s the minimum viable option?
Looking at the aforementioned ‘at what cost’ question, what’s the minimum you could do in order to meet your goal? What can you theoretically avoid giving up while still making progress? This could look like a shift in the goal itself–going from an Ironman to a half-Ironman as the goal, for example. Or maybe, rather than trying to do a sub-10 hour ride at Leadville, you simply want to finish in under 13. Moving forward from that new goal, what does that look like practically? It could look like deciding that one long ride day each weekend will suffice. Two might be better, but time with your spouse/kids is more important than the perfect training.
Which projects/goals can serve each other?
Not every goal has to be totally disparate. Can you focus on a couple of them at the same time? Usually a learning-based one can go hand-in-hand with a physical one, since you can watch an online course or listen to audiobooks while training if needed, or you can use your rest days (or time in compression boots in the evening) to study. Maybe the goals even overlap a bit here: For me, a goal I have right now is to improve my conversational French—partially because I’ve been wanting to (and attempting to on and off) for years, but partially because I realize racing in Quebec without a grasp of basic French is much more difficult, and if I ever do start getting into ultras in Europe, the same situation will apply. If your goals are social—spending time with friends or making friends—you can consider adding training with a group to your calendar.
What can you delete?
This may be deleting something you’re currently doing that’s costing you time/money/stress. Or maybe it’s a few of the goals off of your 2023 bucket list that need to get pushed to 2024. Even if you can’t delete something right now, is there anything that can go in the next year? You may even want to set guardrails around not adding anything new, or put rules in place that you are willing to let certain things go if it comes up. You may not want to drop a client, for instance, but if a client wants to leave, you may set a rule to simply let them—and not immediately try to fill that spot!
Who do you want to be?
Another point Pierre made in that episode was asking the question of who you want to be/become by working towards that goal. Again, this comes back to if you can prepare for the goal you’ve set…and do you want to? For this question, I like to think about what happens if I don’t actually get my goal—which happened to me during my last race. Will I still feel fulfilled based on what I did in my training and race prep to get there (assuming that I did everything I could)? That’s a good sign to me that a goal is well aligned: If the goal itself doesn’t pan out but I’d still be happy with the work that I put in, it’s a good call. (This is how I feel about ultra trail races, and writing fiction. I may not win every race or pen a bestseller, but I love the running and the writing and the improvements that come from each race prep and book written.)
What do you want to do, really?
Another lens to look through is what you actually want to do. We talk about this a lot when it comes to goals: We’re big fans of working backwards from “what is the optimal day/week/month for you?” What kind of training, work, projects, etc. are you tackling in that ideal situation? (Obviously, for your racing goals, skew this to training, but write in the other stuff as well!) This is a good one, but you have to be careful to be really honest with yourself about your ideal-but-realistic day. Look, I love the idea of doing yoga on the beach every morning, going for a long run, writing some brilliant chapters in my next book, and so on… But the reality is that my ideal day would also include some very chill time with Peter and DW watching a movie. Life isn’t a sexy movie montage, so when you think of your ideal day, don’t think about it in terms of a great IG post or montage with a great soundtrack. Remember, it’s your life and you actually live every second of it!