Just a few weeks ago, I was standing in a crowd of several thousand spectators, screaming encouragement to Ben Smith who was a farmer’s carry and two deadlifts away from being named the Fittest Man on Earth. It was his 7th consecutive year at the Reebok CrossFit Games and as he finished his last two lifts and staggered across the finish line, I thought back to a video CrossFit produced featuring Ben and I, as two Mid-Atlantic athletes who were going to the games in 2010. Part of the video showed a list of goals that were hung on the wall of Ben Smith’s home gym.
Mr. Smith set these goals for his 2010 training year when he was at the ripe old age of 20 years old! The numbers and goals are impressive yes, but even more impressive to me is the type of goals set and the way they were recorded and tracked. In honor of the end of the 2015 CrossFit Games season – or what I like to call the “CrossFit New Year”, I’d like to share some of my reflections on goal setting and achievement.
1. One Big Goal
Having one big goal is important because it can be your compass pointing you in the right direction. When it is hard to stick to your plan that day, you can look to this big goal as your “why”. For Ben, it was to win the CrossFit Games in 2010 (and presumably each year it has been that goal until he finally reached it in 2015!).
For me, it is to qualify for the CrossFit Games in 2016. That’s my one Big Goal to keep me moving through my smaller, daily goals.
2. Smaller specific, observable and measurable goals
This is the meat of goal setting. Goals should be specific, observable and measurable. However, many times our true desires aren’t as simple as that. Often, we want to “be healthier”, “get in shape”, “win (insert title) competition” , “get stronger”, “have more energy” etc. To decide on how I should approach my goal, I ask myself, “What steps do I need to take to get there?”
Much like Ben, I also have a list of measurable goals that I believe will put me in the best position for achieving my big goal of qualifying for the 2016 CrossFit Games, such as “be able to handstand walk 120 feet unbroken” or “snatch 180#”. If your goal is health related rather than competition related, use specific markers to measure your health – it could be physiological such as blood pressure or body composition, lifestyle choices such as getting 8 hours of sleep or physical activity goals such as exercising 4x a week, among many others.
3. Make a plan on how you will achieve your goals
Enlisting the help of experts. Coaches, doctors, chiros or PTs can all be great resources for not only goal achievement but also goal setting. Often, I have gone to a coach with my bigger goal, for example – snatch 180# and in declaring that goal have come away with many micro goals (lift 5x a week, shoulder mobility exercises, be able to overhead squat 220#, etc.) designed to achieve that.
Make the time for the activities that support your goal. Setting a goal can help you prioritize activities, for example, sleeping 8 hours versus catching up on Instagram. (we’re all guilty of that one)
Set dates for when you will check in on your progress or achieve your goal. One of my favorite parts about Ben’s list is the goals that are crossed off and a date added next to them of when he achieved them. Writing a list of goals is great as long as you check back in frequently to see where you’re at. Its important to see how much further you have to go, or if you can check one off the list! (talk about a morale booster!)
4. Stay the course
There may be times when you aren’t successful in meeting your Big Goal in the timeframe you had planned. This is an opportunity to check in and evaluate some things. This year, my Big Goal was to place top five at Regionals in order to qualify for the CrossFit Games. I placed 6th and did not qualify. Because my training year was made up of many smaller, measurable training goals that I was able to achieve, I not only feel accomplished despite not meeting my Big Goal, I’m able to road map the path for success next year (and, like Ben, stay the course until I get there).
The best questions I have asked myself when I need motivation to “stay the course” are:
First, what progress have I made and what are some of the smaller goals that I was able to achieve? Seeing the progress you have made along the way can reinforce that you are on the right track.
Second, is my goal still a valuable pursuit and my journey towards it worthwhile and meaningful? It is a cliché, but you have to enjoy the journey! Any goal worthy of pursuing will be hard work at times but should be contributing to the quality of your life, not detracting from it.
To repeat a common – but true – quote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, so get out there & set your goals!