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I rarely listened in English lessons and find it hard to believe my two finger typing technique could input much more than a login name and password! I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this and those who read my previous post on celebrating your wins. I really appreciated the feedback that came my way so please feel free to leave any additional thoughts and comments below or in the land of Facebook.
For my second post I wanted to keep the good vibes going. Goal setting can be tricky business and I feel like many people look at it in a way that sets them up for failure, rather than success; and if not failure, maybe just a feeling of stagnation or poor performance. A simple re-alignment of your goals can be the difference between feeling like you are reaching new heights and feeling like your progression is stuck in the mud.
One aspect of setting goals is the benchmark on which you will compare your results. Like any good scientific study, you want some form of ‘control’ to compare any collected data against. This control, benchmark or baseline is where many people seem to go wrong, in my opinion. I’m attacking this from a racing perspective, as I come across this a lot when chatting to juniors that I work with, but it is certainly not limited to young people or racers.
The issue I see is when riders try to compare their goals and progression against dynamic markers, and potentially the most common of these markers is other riders. All too often I hear “My goal is to finish top ten” or even “I want to beat Tyson. I may never be as good looking as he is but…”
Here is an example of how a rider may fall into the trap:
On hypothetical race weekend one, a rider (let’s call him Chester) places eighth with a time of two minutes flat after setting a goal to get inside the top ten. Chester leaves a very happy rider and everything is sunshine and rainbows! On the flipside, on hypothetical race weekend two, Chester places eleventh. His time is two minutes flat with the exact same goal and circumstances. The only difference is that there were three riders that decided not to race in weekend one, but raced in weekend two and all finished in front of Chester. It’s likely that Chester will leave the track frustrated and feeling like he should have done more. Big dark clouds are overhead and preventing the refraction of light through the rain drops. Two very different outcomes from the exact same performance and the problem wasn’t the riding; it was where Chester aimed his goal.
Extrinsic goal setting more often than not involves too many variables that make it hard to pinpoint whether you successfully achieved a positive outcome or not. And if not, it’s hard to identify the factors that led you to fall short. In the case above, the outcome of your goal was completely dependant on the performance of others and there is little you can take from it other than I was or was not in the top ten. Goals that are outwardly focused generally fall into the “extrinsic” category; things like “top ten finish” and “going to beat Tyson”.
Intrinsic goals revolve around things that you can control and are focused on yourself. A better goal would have been “I want to get my time under two minutes”. It’s up to you to figure out whether two minutes on the nose is a tick or cross (let’s stay positive and say it’s a tick) but now both situations above have you leaving the track in the same state, sunshine and rainbows for days. You can also read further into your results if you were a few seconds faster or slower. You can analyse where that time came from, or went, and you will inevitably learn more about your performance too. You can read very little into “finish top ten”.
Keep this in the back of your mind the next time you set a goal or try to analyse your performance on the bike. It’s not bad to aim for a top ten finish or to feed a rivalry but don’t let those outcomes affect your analysis of your performance. Other riders can have good days too and their good day doesn’t have to mean that yours was bad.
Words: Tyson Schmidt