Written by Coach Michael Harvey
It’s not I will believe it when I see it; instead it is you will see it when you believe it.
Think about that while I step you through what I have come to learn as the process of people achieving their goals. What helps people get there and what has people falling short?
Habits are king in our lives. From your morning ritual, to how or where you like to eat your dinner. These are what help us tick over like clockwork and it’s what we come to find easy. The key to creating habits? Consistency! What we repeatedly do eventually becomes second nature and we will continue to do. This is why many people lapse back into ‘old ways’ so quickly rather than persevering in creating a new habit. I find that it takes 3 weeks for most people to get into and establish a new habit. In those 3 weeks it may feel frustrating, difficult or easier to simply not do the new task. If you keep at it however after 3 weeks though it changes.
The second part to making things stick is motivation. I’m not talking about the lovely colourful quotes or Instagram pictures in your feed. What matters to you will dictate if you succeed at your goal or not. Many years ago, I was a personal trainer and would regularly have people come to me and say ‘oh if I can just lose 5kg it will be so much better’. What I came to find after enough times though was even after losing the 5kg they wanted to, they were still not happy. I’ve since coined these types of goals as ‘bullshit goals’. These goals are the things that you say that sound nice when explaining to people, but deep down it doesn’t mean anything to you. I then found that redirecting people’s attention away from the ‘5kg’ and instead to feeling fit, strong with plenty of energy, all of a sudden it didn’t matter what their weight was and instead that they FELT good.
So now some of the back story of goals is covered, I see many in our sport that train year round, compete in races and seemingly aren’t happy with their end outcomes. Now, if clear goals and objectives are set, habits put in place and motivation is calibrated, does that mean the end goal will be achieved? From my perspective there is one key element that I see so overlooked that it was what prompted this blog. It is your self-talk. What is self-talk? It is the internal conversation you have with yourself that helps you make decisions and take action in day to day life. Some of you will have loud and constant self talk while others will tell me that voices in your head are only for crazy people. For today, lets agree that there is a degree of self-talk for each and every person.
What is important about this internal dialogue is that what you tell yourself over time does and will come true. You would be silly to lie to yourself and in fact when we do lie to ourselves, our actions end up rectifying it for us to show us what we really believe. For some athletes the self talk might be ‘I’m too slow’, ‘I’m not a good swimmer’, ‘I will never be able to do……’. For those athletes please let me share with you that these are self-fulfilling prophecies! If you do indeed wish to be a bad swimmer, please continue to tell yourself you are. Otherwise seriously consider changing that.
I’m yet to come across an athlete who does well that only has these negative phrases going through their head. That is not to say that there are not moments of doubt from them, absolutely there are. What they have mastered is the ability to find answers and solutions that will help them see that it is possible. ‘It is so hot today, my pace is dropping and I’m dehydrated’. All valid observations but in no way will help you during the race or training. ‘Its hot today so I better look after hydration and keep cool, my pace is dropping but that is to be expected on a day like today and I just need to manage myself, I’m feeling dehydrated so I need to look after…..’.
'That is all fine and well coach, but it keeps happening. I just keep being negative’. Great that you notice! You can only influence and change what you are aware of. Yes, it is going to take weeks, months and years of practice for you to get good at it. But I can assure you, once you start doing it and getting better at it you will find it easier. It is a habit, practice it regularly, practice it daily.
Finally I will shine a light on the opening line and the long term goals people have. The biggest thing I notice with athletes and long term goals is that if they aren’t able to see themselves doing it now, they don’t think it is possible. I will share a metaphor with you that you can all relate to. You begin a road trip from Melbourne to Brisbane that is going to take you 2 days and over 2000km to reach your destination. You start from Melbourne knowing the direction that you will start driving the car. At this point you simply have an idea, a concept of 2 things
1) Where you are going
2) Roughly what it will be like along the way
In this situation you without question understand that the trip along the way will have many variables. You will have to stop for fuel and may not even plan where you are going to stop. There may be a heap of traffic on the road and slow you down. There may be an accident that forces you on an alternate route. You get tired so you pull over for a rest. You get hungry and stop somewhere for dinner.
Now many of these variables on your trip you didn’t plan or account for however, you had no problem or hesitation at the beginning of the trip before you left the comfort of your living room in deciding that you were heading to Brisbane. Because you wanted to get there and had the means to, you would eventually make it. Now, you could sit in your house and list all the things that could go wrong along the way and how this will negatively affect you getting to Brisbane, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get there, only that you are focusing on the things you can’t control.
If you aren’t sure how you are going to get to your goal at the start or even the middle, just know that is ok. Your self-talk will reflect what you believe and if that is achieving your target then you should be talking about that. You don’t need to see Brisbane to believe that you can drive there. You achieving goals in sport works exactly the same way but instead of Google maps guiding and directing you which way to go it is your coach.