So you’ve found a Spartan race that you want to compete in and have signed up, but have you determined what you want to accomplish in training for and completing that race? And have you shared your goal with a friend? Applying commitment practices to your daily routine can increase your odds of reaching that achievement.
To help you tap into the power of commitment and reach those future goals, we talked to Dr. Lara Pence, PsyD, and Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D., a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) and an Association for Applied Sport Psychology executive board member.
Why Is Committing to a Goal Important?
Goals, or even basic intentions, are incredibly important. Without them, where do you direct your behavior?
“If I gave you a basketball without a hoop to shoot at, where would you shoot?” Gonzalez asks. “Goals are targets for where we want to direct behaviors and actions.”
And when you commit, you actually execute.
How to Commit to a Goal That Is Achievable for You
“When I’m working with clients, one of the first things I’ll ask them when we talk about goal setting is, ‘Does that goal align with your values?’” Pence explains.
It’s important to make sure that what you’re aiming for is what you really want — not what a friend is working on — and something that you can realistically achieve.
“I also tell clients to ask themselves, ‘How does this goal elevate you as an individual and elevate your contribution on this planet?’” Pence says. “One of the things I think people stumble with when making a commitment is connecting to a purpose. Having an emotionally-guided goal can help you dig deeper when motivation wanes.”
While training for a Spartan race, you’ll likely develop grit and persistence and connect with other people. Working toward those higher purposes can give you a boost when you’re tired of training or feeling unmotivated. These are the four steps that will get you on track to committing and executing on your goals.
1. Choose a Target Date
A date is that definitive line in the sand as to when something will happen or will be completed, and without it, it’s very easy to ditch accountability.
“There’s an old saying: ‘The easiest way to cure procrastination is to have a due date,’” Gonzalez says.
If you haven’t pulled the trigger on signing up for your next race, the time to do so is now.
2. Write It Down and Share Your Execution Plan
An often-cited study out of the Dominican University of California found that when people wrote down a specific goal, they were nearly 50% more likely to achieve it than those who didn’t jot it down. In fact, study subjects who wrote down their intentions, formulated steps on how to achieve their commitment, sent that goal to a friend, and updated the friend with weekly progress reports were the most likely to achieve their goals.
Pence recommends her clients write their goal down every morning.
“The repetition of writing something down feeds into what we know about neuroscience,” she says. “The more we expose ourselves to something, the more real it becomes, and the more likely it is to occur.”
3. Practice Mindfulness to Lighten the Load
Taking a mindfulness approach to goal setting may improve your overall performance and reduce anxiety, according to research.
“One of the shadow sides of goal setting is the fact that large and potentially unattainable goals can cause us to stress, feel anxious, or constantly ruminate on our goals,” Gonzalez says.
Perhaps you’re nursing a bad cold a few weeks before your race, and are fretting that you won’t be able to break your personal record. Mindfulness can help create space and awareness when you find yourself worrying about a goal.
“Ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do right now?’” Gonzalez advises. “If not, then table your worries. If yes, take action.”
4. Prepare for Obstacles
Sure, you’re training for obstacles you’ll face in your next race, but do you have a plan in place for external or internal factors (like negative self-talk) that threaten to derail you? Having an approach of “when, then” thinking is so important for goal setting.
“There are a lot of situations you can prepare for by coming up with contingency plans,” Gonzalez says. “For example, if I run outside and conditions are dangerously icy or it’s pouring, I could say, ‘When the weather is bad, then I will do a bodyweight routine at home instead.’”