Interesting Thought: Bust Barriers with Purpose
The new year is approaching which means lots of people will be looking back and looking forward. It's natural to evaluate what you did, how you did it, and the result of your efforts. It's also natural to plan ahead, to set new goals for what you'll do and how you'll do it in 2018 and beyond. This is all well and good, but we also need to make sure that we don't overlook the WHY behind our efforts.
Why is “why” so important? One answer lies in a theory of human performance developed by Samuele Marcora, director of research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Science, called the psychobiological model of fatigue. Marcora’s theory says that when you’re in the midst of an activity, your brain is constantly weighing perception of effort—how hard what you’re doing feels—against your motivation to do it. When perception of effort is greater than motivation, you slow down or stop. When the opposite is true, you keep going. Perception of effort can be physical, but it can also be mental or emotional.
It follows, then, that there are two predominant ways to get more out of yourself. You can train to make something feel easier—by getting fitter or improving a skill or capacity—or you can increase your motivation. On the latter, just ask yourself: Are you more likely to hang in there when the going gets tough if you've got a compelling reason to? And not just one that you pay lip-service to, but one that you truly feel?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivation, research shows that there are two ways to consistently improve performance and wellbeing over the long-haul:
1) Focus on the process, or the joy and fulfillment that one gets NOT from achieving a specific result but rather from doing the work and the process of becoming and the growth that comes with it. This is about selecting an activity or goal because of what the path will offer you—and then trying to be as fully present as you can while on that path.
2) Focus on deep meaning, doing something because you believe it will be of benefit to or inspire others; a contribution that moves forward not just you but a greater cause or community as well.
What does this all mean for you?
During your end of year reflections, set aside some time to ponder your "whys." If you find yourself needing to force a "why" onto your "whats" and "hows," then perhaps you should reconsider whether or not you have the right "whats" and "hows" to begin with. If, however, you come up with goals that have a firm and aligned purpose behind them, you'll be much more likely to accomplish them. And far more important, you'll be more likely to experience personal growth and satisfaction along the way.
(Parts of this came from my recent Outside story on meaning and motivation. You can read the whole thing here.)
Coaching Corner: Choose Reflections Not Goals
I hate goals. Absolutely despise them.
Do I think that goals are inherently evil? Of course not. In fact, research and experience shows that they are indeed worthwhile in many instances. They serve as a both a guiding star to make sure that you have a direction to where you are going. But at my current point in life, they aren’t for me.
If I had to perform a psychoanalysis of why that is, it all comes back to living a life centered around and dominated by goals. From the age of 14 until my late 20’s, I could look on my wall and see a piece of paper clearly stating what I was trying to accomplish that season. The black permanent marker served as a daily reminder of what my true mission was: run fast. While serving as a motivating guidestone for much of the time, they turned into reminders of my own failure after a while. You see, for a large period of time, my own performances stagnated, and none of those goals were hit. This could serve as a wonderful example of why we need process-oriented goals in addition to outcome ones. But for me, these endless failed goals left a lasting taste in my mouth that screamed, “I don’t want to see a measured or quantified goal for the rest of my life!”
So when others go heavy into setting their goals, such as New Year's resolutions, I go the opposite direction. Instead of looking forward to what I hope to accomplish, I look back. My New Year's resolutions are replaced by New Year's reflections.
During the winter break I’m off from day to day coaching, freeing up a two-week block where I have the time and energy to reflect on the past year. This reflection period serves as a grounding mechanism, ensuring that I take all of the information I accumulated over the previous year and convert it into learning. What does that process look like on a detailed level?
It starts with reviewing my notebooks, taking a long look into what I recorded, what I thought was important, and what thoughts I had at the time. My objective is simple, filter all of that down into ideas or concepts that I need to look into further or could potentially apply in the future. Whether from a training/coaching standpoint, or from a simple living my life standpoint, the task is to continually narrow all of the thoughts that sparked interest throughout the year into usable and actionable sound bites that lead to functional change in behaviors or, at the least, further exploration.
In addition to my notebooks, a key part of my new years reflection is to take the information I’ve accumulated from reading and make sure that the lessons learned are carried forward. That means going through all of the notes I’ve taken while reading and narrowing it down into usable and actionable information. To complete this task, I filter the notes by asking a simple question: Does this cover material I fundamentally need to know when coaching/writing, or is it something I could use elsewhere in my life? If it’s fundamental to coaching, for example, then I take the idea and put it into my “cheat sheet guide to coaching,” which is a document I have that goes over the most important concepts I use to coach. If it’s something that I can use elsewhere, then I sort it into an evernote file based on a number of topics (e.g., Training, Psychology, Writing, Motivation, etc.).
After going through all of my notes, I write down the key takeaways from the year. This is supposed to be a concise list that I can glance back at, reminding me of what I learned in the previous year and what seemed important to take forward. In this way, my reflections turn into actionable behaviors.
In a strange and round about way, I end up with “goals.” No, not goals in the form of what I want to accomplish, but instead goals based on what I have seen needs to be done based on my own “data” from the year before.
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