Staying motivated in the New Year
You probably have some goal races planned for 2019 by now. That’s great, because we all know that having these goals helps motivate us to train and live a healthy lifestyle. But are the goals enough to get you through the challenging times that lie ahead?
Challenges? How about that nagging injury that’s going to cause you to miss some running and force you to cross-train for a few weeks (or more). Or that trip, illness, project, or whatever that you aren’t necessarily planning. At some point, maintaining your running practice and healthy lifestyle is going to be hard. It may be hard right now!
That’s why “stacking” motivators is so important. Having a robust set of reasons that support your practice of training, eating, and purposeful living is essential for long-term success and enjoyment.
Now is a great time to reflect on this by looking both backward and ahead to create your motivation stack:
- Your goals
- Your emotions
- Your why
You can work in either direction but I suggest going like this: Goals -> Emotions -> Why -> Goals . It’s OK if you need to refine your goals a bit after going through the process.
As mentioned at the beginning, most of us can easily come up with goals in the form of races and performances. This is good. Being clear about your goals is an essential part of a good training plan. If you desire growth and progress then you must push beyond your current abilities. Goals provide coordinates of our destination so we can set off on the right path, into uncharted territory.
There’s some guidance on goal setting at The Runner’s Toolkit.
The main points are …
- Set goals that stretch you yet remaining attainable
- Break goals into A (stretch), B (challenge), and C (likely) outcomes
- Be ready to revise or rewrite goals as time progresses to keep them challenging and realistic.
Run through your goals after thinking about it this way. Write them down. Share them with those who can help keep you accountable. Look at them often; refine them occasionally.
I think all of us, in one way or another, expect the process of training and racing to make us feel good. It can take many forms:
- Pure joy of being in a flow state while running
- Satisfaction of accomplishing a goal
- Being proud of a performance (race or training run)
- Enhanced feelings of love toward friends and family
- Confidence from heightened physical and mental abilities
Think back to some of the most fun you’ve had running. Connect with the emotion associated with that feeling. Emotions are great sources of information—they can tell us what we really care about and value. So the more you understand that good feeling you get from running, the more you can create an environment where it will thrive in the future.
For example, I realized in 2018 that the best and strongest positive emotions I experienced came from races and events where I connected with people. This happened at a few long trail races where I interacted with people while running through natural environments. It happened at road races where competition with friends drew us closer together. I experienced it at track and cross country races where the team component drew us together. And I felt it at some local runs where my kids explored their limits and brought the whole family closer. This informs my plans for 2019 by prioritizing human connection over individual accomplishment — ultimately providing me a solid source of motivation to keep at it.
What emotions stand out for you? What does that mean? How can you shape 2019 and beyond to experience more of that feeling? Hopefully that is something you can return to regularly to keep you fired up.
After contemplating your goals and emotions, you should start to see some underlying themes emerge. If not, ask yourself “why?”. Why do you gravitate to certain goals? Why are specific emotions more significant and meaningful to you? What is behind that motivation to run and perform?
It is a bit over-hyped by now, by Simon Sinek’s Start With Why contains great insight into what motivates people to achieve great things. Goals will come and go, but the reason you keep coming up with them probably stays steady. The better you understand why you run, the more motivated you’ll be to make the best decisions on a daily basis. And that will make all the difference.