The Pitfall of Emotional Goal-Setting

In many facets of life (in this case, CrossFit), as a community we understand the importance of having goals and setting them for ourselves. Goals can provide us with something to work towards, give us a purpose, or motivate us to perform better. However, many fall into the trap of emotional goal-setting.

With the dawn of the annual CrossFit Games upon us, many athletes begin to ride that "high" (mentioned in a previous post) and set goals for themselves that they are emotionally ready for, but aren't mentally prepared for. This pattern leads to a vicious cycle of letdowns, frustration, and despise towards the process of self-improvement. However, rarely do people fail to achieve their goals; rather, they fail to match their level of commitment with the magnitude of their aspirations.

In my personal experience, here are some ways to avoid the pitfalls of emotional or improper goal setting:

  1. Be "SMART"
    Begin with goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART is a classic business model that is applicable in many other ways. By making sure you follow those basic guidelines for each goal, accountability is provided when it comes to working towards that particular goal
  2. Consult a mentor.
    Two minds are greater than one, especially when it is someone you trust and respect. A mentor can provide experience and accountability, but most importantly a differing point of view. Having a mentor to talk to about your visions can help you really think about the goals you want to reach, and sift out the emotional goals with the relevant and attainable ones. They can help you understand the full magnitude of each of your goals, and how to set time boundaries on each one. We all need balance, and having someone you trust understand your aspirations goes a long way to keeping you motivated.
    It really doesn't matter how-- pen and paper, cell phone, excel sheet, etc. Just do it. Things become so much more relevant and real when you have to put a pen to paper. Be detailed. Record all dates, specifics, and how you intend to get there. Goals take work, and GOOD work begins with proper planning.
  4. How bad do you want it?
    Here's where things get tricky, and having a mentor plays an important role. Every goal has its own magnitude/severity and thus a corresponding time frame. As the magnitude of the goal increases, the time frame is generally directly correlated. As we increase the variable of time, we also need to understand the sacrifices and commitment level needed to reach this larger goal. Rarely are those bigger goals that simple to which we do not have to provide sacrifices to reach them. Sit down, and figure out what is the true price of reaching that goal. And more importantly, ask yourself: Are you willing to pay that price?
  5. Understand the journey, and enjoy it.
    Almost to contrast the point above, given that sacrifices must be made, we must also accept those sacrifices not as a burden, but rather a small part of the journey that resulted from a conscious decision to go for that big goal. Its never meant to be easy, its never even necessarily enjoyable. So take those small wins when they come! The mindset that you give day-in and day-out can drastically effect the outcome of each day. Being positive and internally motivating yourself (a blog for next time), can not only make the process more fruitful, but can also expedite your path to reaching your aspirations.

After talking with a friend who competed at this year's Games, it was enlightening to see how positive she was despite the sacrifices she made to get there. She mentioned that there were certain aspects of her life that she came to accept would have to move down the priority list, but she knew that given her goal, they were things that she knew had to fall to the wayside. However, it wasn't like these things just happened, it was a mental and conscious understanding that in order to get where she wanted, she would have to come back to those other parts in her life at another time.

Goal setting is easy. We all have had experience since the days of "What do you want to be when you grow up?". What is difficult, and what causes us to lose these goals, is the lack of commitment. How much are you willing to pay to reach your goals?

Hopefully, these small tidbits can help you get a clearer view of reaching your goals and aspirations. Good luck!


Frank Nguyen
Head Coach

Note to DERIVE Athletes: Need help discussing your goals? Contact a coach and schedule a time sit down to talk!