DARE TO DREAM
Defining Your Goals
Sometimes what you want is glaringly obvious. You are determined to run the Boston Marathon and you know exactly what splits you need to run in order to get that qualifier. Other times you might feel more ambivalent about what you want. The desire is still there, but it might be time to turn up the volume. Identifying what you truly want is the first step toward a more inspired way of living.
My Olympic dream began when I was a child, and it guided my life for almost 20 years. However, it was the yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goal-setting that really navigated my route to the Olympics. It was truly an adventure, and along the way I learned some hard lessons about actualizing my dreams. I’ve coupled my insights with the latest psychology research to help you set, stick to, and accomplish your goals.
Dare to Dream
There are two sides of the brain competing for attention: the rational mind and the creative mind. Both are useful, but the rational mind often takes over, limiting your horizon. When imagining the future, you must allow the powerful creative intelligence of your feelings and intuition to guide you. An architect doesn’t begin building a skyscraper by thinking about square footage, electrical wiring, and a complete list of materials; she starts by envisioning what the finished product will look like, how it will feel inside, and how it will be used. Once she has a clear vision of the final product, she then makes a plan to build it. Give yourself the freedom to dream without regard for what is or isn’t possible—there will be time later to sort out the details.
Close the Gap
The space between where you now stand and where you want to be can create a great force of energy. When you are excited about the possibilities that await you, it results in enthusiasm, motivation, and drive. This is why setting goals is so useful. Are you looking for increased motivation to train? Sign up for some races that excite you, or set some goal times that inspire you. Keep aiming to close the gap. Keep improving. Keep changing. Keep growing. And if you arrive at your goal, aim higher, farther, faster. You’ll reach beyond what you ever thought possible.
Fuel Persistence with Purpose
Meaningful goals act as a catalyst, increasing energy, improving decision making, and strengthening commitment. Most adventures will include detours or setbacks, so if you’re not truly enthusiastic about your goals, it’s easy to become dejected, lack fortitude, and give up. Your sense of purpose is what keeps you on track. It gives you the persistence to grind, stretch, fall down, stand up, overcome, improve habits, and make better choices.
The Journey Is the Reward
The media would have us believe that the outcome determines success. However, the leading sports psychologists, authors, and spiritual gurus agree that it’s more beneficial to focus on the process than on the outcome. When you embrace each step along the way, regardless of the final outcome, you win. While I did make it to the Olympics, in my heart and soul I feel my true success was having lived the athlete’s life. I was able to be a fully committed athlete in the sport I loved, and the lifestyle of traveling, training, and racing will stay with me forever, as will the friends.
SUPERCHARGE YOUR CHANCE OF SUCCESS
Set process goals, not outcome goals
This keeps your goals in a realm where you can dictate the commitment you make and the effort you put in. Goals focused on a particular outcome will potentially put you up against other athletes, weather conditions, or other details that are out of your hands.
You can have it all, but not at the same time!
Decide what goals are most important to you. Choose which goals you will focus on and when. Leaning in one direction means pulling away from something else, even for a little while. Saying yes to your goals could also mean saying no to other plans. Drop the shoulds and the guilt.
Embrace the power of negative thoughts
Research shows that people who anticipate obstacles and pro-actively think of ways around them are more likely to achieve a goal than those who skip this step. Better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.
Keep goals visible
Anything that keeps your goal at the forefront of your mind will help that goal remain a priority. Believe in yourself. Studies show that successful people have a vision and go for it!
Watch your words
Declare what you want, not what you don’t want. “I want to feel fit and fast” is better than “I don’t want to be fat and out of shape.”
Share your goals
Tell someone—your coach, sister in sport, spouse—anyone who will help keep you accountable!
You might think this is frivolous, that the intrinsic reward by itself is enough, but your emotional brain wants you to feel good. A reward (or punish¬ment, as preferred by some people) will keep you motivated to continuously raise your game.
Make the time
Carve out time in your day to work on your goal. By scheduling it, you’ll be less likely to forget about it.