Setting goals is an important process of being an athlete, well actually for anyone really. I have always enjoyed the process of setting a target and working towards achieving it.
As a young athlete, I would set small targets and work towards them, and for me, I generally achieved those goals.
Now, as I get older, and progress in the world of cycling, those targets get bigger and take longer or get more difficult to achieve.
It was easy as a young athlete because the checklist of goals was generally always met and that gave me great satisfaction. My current targets take longer to achieve and have taken years of hard work and dedication to get there, and sometimes I might not even reach those goals.
Once I’ve set a goal, the next thing is managing expectations.
I thought I would go through my process of Setting a goal, the plan and process to achieving that goal, Outcomes and Managing expectations.
I always set goals that are on the outer limit of my expectation. Everyone has their own opinion of themselves and you have to be careful of others’ expectations too, as you can easily mistake their expectations for your own.
When I’m goal setting I sit down and ask myself each year what I would love to achieve. I create short term goals (2-3months), long term goals (1-2years) and then my dream goals i.e. what I would dream of doing in my life or career.
Short Term Goals
Short term goals change often and are good little carrots along the way to your dream goal. They should follow a similar trajectory.
For example, I dream to win Paris-Roubaix, so a short-term goal might be to podium in a semi-classic like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in Belgium first.
From there, I set out two or three short-term targets that are challenging but not ridiculous. You don’t want to set targets too low but you also don’t want to discourage yourself either by going too high.
You know deep down what you can and can’t do but there is always a grey area of “Yeah, maybe if I did this or did that I could get there.” Those are the goals you want to write down.
Long term goals
Then comes long-term goals; they are the ones that are a little longer to achieve and can sometimes be achieved by combining a string of short term goals. They might be, in your mind, too far away to think about, but by writing them down you are already subconsciously working towards that target.
I have written long-term goals down in my diary and forgotten about them, then years later I found that diary again and was surprised that I had achieved those targets.
Long-term goals also give you time to set out a plan and process to get there and really give you the chance to think hard on how you can reach your target.
Those goals that as a kid you dreamed of. Like those goosebump-worthy, awe-inspiring dreams.
They can be scary and can be overwhelming but once you take the heightened emotion out of them by writing them down, they seem less scary on paper and more achievable.
For me, a dream goal could be to win an Olympic gold medal.
If you were to look down on your life from the outside and say, “That would be unreal!” – that’s a dream goal!
This is the journey, this is the part you need to enjoy – and enjoying the process is super important to achieving your goals. It’s important that the process is as normal as possible and weaved into your everyday life, because if you need to make huge sacrifices for this it can cause havoc in your life, and impact your goals.
I look at my life and how I want to live it and try to streamline it with my targets.
For example, I like to spend my Sunday chilling out with my wife and family so I structure my training for Sunday to be a rest day.
This doesn’t hurt my training and it really adds to my mental strength spending quality time with them.
Creating a plan
When creating a plan, I start with the goal and work backward from there.
For example, one of my goals is to win another Australian National Time Trial Championship at the Australian Championships in January.
Knowing we need 3 months to build up to the goal, I would start with base work in November/December consisting of long rides, zone 2 and strength-endurance rides, having a few Watt targets to hit along the way.
I make sure my weight is on track to arrive in January at the correct weight. I look into the course and try to replicate a few simulations back home in Perth or ride it on FulGaz on repeat so when I arrive on the day I’ve gone through the whole process a few times so nothing is new.
Being prepared gives you confidence and avoids those added nerves.
Now I’ve arrived on the day of the race knowing I have covered all areas and have worked hard both physically and mentally and I’m ready to execute my goal.
On race day, one of two things happens, you either accomplish the goal of winning the time trial, which is a great feeling, or you don’t, which is not a great feeling.
So the next step is to manage the expectation around not achieving your goal, or achieving your goal and what’s next.
Managing expectations – What happens when you don’t hit that goal.
After spending months mapping out and executing the steps towards achieving a National Time Trial Championship, I was disappointed when I came second and didn’t take home the win.
You did everything you could leading into the event and the day before you were confident and happy with your preparation but because you didn’t achieve the goal everything was not correct in your mind.
As disappointment goes, your mind starts to play tricks on you and you doubt all the preparation and look for reasons why you didn’t achieve the goal.
I personally feel you need to sit with that disappointment for a short period because if you’re not somewhat upset you never really cared enough about the goal anyway.
The next step is that I sit down with my coach and go over the facts and reflect on the plan, the process and the goal, asking myself these key questions, “What are the things we did well? What are the things we could do better?”
I guarantee you will feel better after doing this and your motivation for what’s next comes back pretty quick.
Managing your disappointment and personal expectations is important for moving on to your next goal. You expected you to do better so you feel let down by yourself and doubt your future ambitions and goals.
This can be a real test of mental toughness as it’s the moment that you have fallen off the proverbial horse and now it’s time to get back on and go again.
There are countless examples of athletes who continue to believe and persist and always get back up and try again to eventually reach their goal.
I’m a big believer in, ‘You just gotta keep trying and something good can always come of it.’Even if it’s something you didn’t expect – if you never try, you will never know.
Expectations of others
Another key aspect is managing the expectations of others. Leading into events you get a lot of support from others within the sport or outside the sport and they are all super excited to see you do well in the upcoming event. With so many eyes on you there is a (perhaps unintentional) expectation set upon you for an outcome.
Over time I have realized this support does not actually add pressure, it’s more that people want to see you do well and achieve the goals that you have worked so hard for. It’s important to remember that your goal is for yourself and not for others.
Achieving the goal
This is a great feeling and something we strive for in life and in sport. Too few people sit back and reflect and pat themselves on the back and say “Well done mate, you did a great job.”
This is an important thing to do. A lot of athletes are really quick to move onto what’s next and don’t take that moment to themselves to reflect fondly on that moment.
After I have achieved a goal, I will take that night to sit and enjoy a beer, reflecting on it with a smile. The next morning is time to start on the next goal.
We set goals to achieve them and this should make us happy, so it’s important to do the happy bit.
I hope that this has given you a little bit of insight into my process, and helps you set a few goals of your own to achieve.