Yesterday I sat down and wrote some goals out for myself.
When I return to racing, I will be 36 years old. Yikes. That sounds almost as bad as having a geriatric pregnancy! While I know that women can peak in endurance events into their late 30s, the clock is ticking. Funny, we women cannot escape ticking clocks. I feel like all of a sudden I’ve found myself approaching my late 30s with so much I still want to do in sport and life.
Where did all of the time go?
I’m not saying you can’t be fast in your late 30s, I’m just saying that I’ve already set some decent PRs and to break through those, it needs to be done sooner than later. I’m not dropping a sub 18:00 5K when I am 40. Not going to happen. Plus I have these damn ovaries, and my husband does not. If we want a bigger family, well, tick tock.
So I sat down yesterday to write out pie the sky, escapism dreams. You know those dreams? Like if you had all the time, money, drive, talent in the world, what would you want to accomplish? There’s the old saying that says you ask yourself why, I ask myself why not. And that is something I always used to do. Why not me. Why not sub 18. Open yourself up to the possibility. That is often the difference between those that pick apart their performance (why am I not getting faster! why am I so slow! how will I ever hit those intervals!) and those who peak at their performance (why not go faster than that, why not do it today, why not be one of the best).
It’s interesting to think or talk about goals or dreams when you are pregnant. I was talking to a friend about racing after pregnancy and he said “whoa, worry about having a healthy baby first!” Seriously? I can worry the next 25 weeks away but that won’t improve the process. In fact I will probably enjoy it less. Not only that but we as women have the right to think about life beyond baby. A baby is a beginning, not an end.
Entering pregnancy, I was prepared for all of the changes in my body, the changes in my life but I was not prepared for all of the assumptions from others that having a child will equal the end of everything that embodies “myself” – my passions, my business, my needs, my dreams, my-self. The self can still exist. Let me rephrase – the self will still exist. I am not going to become this child, I will care for and shape this child. Yes, you can still pursue yourself and your passions. Women do it all the time – my friends, my own mother. You just have to do so more time-effectively and with balance.
Spend enough time in the pregnancy mode of swimming/biking/running with your heart rate low and you find some time in your mind to think about goals. Big goals. Like I said, pie in the sky dreams. Mmm…pie. I have never before been so hungry for accomplishment (or, bacon). Something so strong you can taste it, you visualize it before bed, that you cannot wait to begin the process of working toward it. I am caged. That is how you find passion for your goals. Not surprisingly, the goals came to me quickly, affirmation that this is what I want to do and it is just a matter of time and effort before I achieve them.
And even if I do not, I will at least say to myself that I tried.
Shortly after writing down some goals, I ran into one of my athletes. She is also a coach. We started talking about athletes in general and the conversation turned to goals. Everyone is into goals. Aren’t they great? All of a sudden you write down something like I am going to give up chocolate this week and you feel 10 pounds thinner. You feel totally in control. Of course writing it down is the easy part. Action is a little more difficult. When faced with temptation, commitment, follow through, time crunches, stresses of daily life – we behave in different ways. All of a sudden giving up chocolate, a sensible goal, becomes a failure of meeting a goal. And then what. We go back to being our fat, unworthy self.
All because of chocolate?
She started talking about how athletes can get wrapped up in their goals, they rely on them in a not so good way. Goals are never that easy. You might say that you want to go sub xx:xx at Ironman and then dedicate so much time, physical, mental and emotional energy to achieve that goal. But it is never as easy as that. Even if you do invest all of that into your goal, there are so many x-factors on race day that reaching your goal is never guaranteed. The longer your race, the more x-factors exist, the more likely luck plays an even bigger goal in your role. You cannot plan for luck. You just hope that it finds you on race day.
What happens, then, when an athlete doesn’t reach that goal. Then what. How do they feel? In the case of giving up chocolate, you fail to give it up and you just become yourself again. Maybe even more disappointed in yourself. Maybe you go on a chocolate binge because why not – it’s all or nothing, you already f*cked up might as well slide down the slope of self-pity and eating your emotions. But in racing, if you spend all of that time preparing, working, sacrificing and fall short – or don’t even make it to the finish line – what do you do? Are you devastated? Do you quit the sport? Does it inspire you to work even harder? Or does reaffirm yourself as being slow, not good enough, whatever demon thoughts you harbor about yourself.
In this sense, setting a goal can be a very empty experience. Of course it is fulfilling if you reach that goal. But if you do not, you are left with a vacuous feeling that all of that work went for nothing, that you failed yourself.
That is when she started talking about intentions. And how important they are when setting goals. She said it so simply but it was very powerful: know your intention. You can set a time goal, you can set any goal – but why. What does that goal mean to you. Why are you setting it. Who will you be if you reach it. And, who will you be if you fall short.
By definition, the word intention means a knowing and willing determination or decision to act in a certain way; the reason, end or goal for performing a specific action; resolve. It is a sense of purpose that leads to action. Along those lines, all of a sudden setting a time goal alone is not enough. What is the purpose of breaking 2:30 in an Olympic distance triathlon? So what. It’s like swearing off chocolate for a week. Yes, the ultimate goal may be to lose weight – but why? What is the intention in that? If you think it through you find that the intention is to feel better, to be healthier, to eat more balanced, to have more energy….the list could go on. And it is a list that is 10 times more inspiring and meaningful than just-stop- eating-it-already-will-you.
I thought about this on my drive home from the city last night. Intentions. So many of us set goals and have tasks leading up to those goals but what is the bigger purpose. What makes an athlete keep going back to the pool to break x:xx for a series of 100s when they keep hitting a few seconds off. What makes them ask themselves for more in their run test because they only dropped 4 seconds per mile and they wanted to drop 5. What drives them to continue to strive for their best? What are their intentions?
Back to my pie in the sky goals. Or dreams. Whatever, these are things I want to achieve. Why? It’s more than just wanting to say, I went xx:xx in Ironman. It’s more than setting a new personal best. It is because everything in the last two years tells me I should give up on goals and just buy Huggies for the rest of my life. Because it is easier to give up on yourself as the demands in life increase, as we age, as we know we will have to work harder for what once came to us more easily. Because after being defeated or falling short so many times, it is easier to not even try at all.
But that is not my intention. I’ll set and go after my goals with the same gusto I did years before. Back then I did it because I wanted to see how far I could push myself, how much I could better myself. My intention was to keep proving to myself that yes I can. That whatever goal I set, it could be achieved. That I had what it took to get there. Whether it was starting a business or running a fast 5K. Intention is contagious in all areas of life.
Nothing has changed. That is still in me. There is also a baby inside of me that right now is the size of a navel orange! But one day it will be out. And I will have freedom to pursue sport goals again. So in the remaining time I have to peak, how high can I climb? The possibility of this, to me, is exciting.
Being pregnant you start to think about these things – is the climb possible, worth it, will there be time. It is so easy to expect nothing from yourself because everyone else is expecting that your job for the rest of your life will be taking care of baby. Well, of course it is! But if I know anything about women, it is that they are master multitaskers. More demands call for more focus. And focus gets things done. So, I go through pregnancy with the intention that I will get back to being myself, pursuing goals for myself while also shaping a little person to do the same.
Know your intention. If you know what you want in a situation, you will know what to do. You will know why you want to do it. Intention is your passion, with a purpose and drive. It clarifies your reasons. My intentions are clear to me. Are your intentions clear to you?