So you’ve found a Spartan race that you want to compete in — or you’re currently perusing the 2021 schedule — and have signed up, but have you determined what you want to accomplish in that race? And have you shared your goal with a friend? Increase your odds of reaching that achievement by applying commitment practices to your daily routine.
To help you tap into the power of commitment and reach future goals, we talked to Dr. Lara Pence, PsyD, and Stephen Gonzalez, Ph.D., a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) and Association for Applied Sport Psychology executive board member.
With the release of our 2021 schedule, and in (hopefully) turning towards some relative modicum of normalcy, it’s a fitting time to examine why committing to a specific goal helps you reach it, and how to execute with intentionality.
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Goals, or even basic intentions, are important because without them, where do you direct 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.” When you commit, you actually execute.
Commit to a Goal That’s Best For You, and Is Achievable
“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?’” says Pence. It’s important to make sure what you’re aiming for is what you really want — not what a friend is working on — and one 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?’” says Pence. “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 towards those higher purposes can give you a boost when you’re tired of training or feeling unmotivated.
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,’” says Gonzalez. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on signing up for your next race, the time to do so is now.
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 percent 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.”
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 high and potentially unattainable goals can cause us to stress, feel anxious, or constantly ruminate on our goals,” says Gonzalez. 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.” Discover the power of five minutes of meditation.
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 — hello, 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.’”