By Jaime Komer
In order to inspire others, we first and foremost must inspire ourselves. The greatest, yet most challenging, experience I had as an athlete was being the backup goalkeeper for the USA Women’s Water Polo Team in the 2008 Olympic Games. Yet my perspective and priorities were a little skewed at the time. I considered myself to be a failure for not achieving my goal of being the starting goalie.
The goal to be the best (go figure, a goalkeeper with goals), potentially in the world, was clouding my genuine love for the sport. Out walked intrinsic motivation and in walked extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation
When you are motivated by the enjoyment of the task at hand or by your individual willpower, you are intrinsically motivated. On the other hand, if you are motivated by a reward (money, degree, fame, etc.) or by a punishment, then you are extrinsically motivated. Competition is an example of extrinsic motivation, while developing a skill because it brings you joy is an example of intrinsic motivation.
As athletes, there are two sides to the game. On one side, we play because we love it. On the other, we play with the desire to win, be the best, go to college, get a scholarship, be famous, make money, or all of the above. Chances are, we experience a mixture of the two. The same can be said for the work place, school environment, or personal life choices.
By looking at how we are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, we can identify steps needs to achieve our goals, for once and for all.
Step 1: Get Real With Yourself
Think of a goal you had set for yourself, yet did not achieve.
- Why did you set this goal in the first place?
- At the time, how did not achieving the goal make you feel?
- Looking at the motivation behind your goal, were you intrinsically or extrinsically motivated?
- Think of why you did not achieve your goal. Was this goal as important to you as you originally thought it was? Did something change in your motivation? Take full accountability for this answer (displacing blame on the situation, a person, or other outside circumstance will not allow us to take full ownership of this learning experience).
- Was there anything you learned about yourself from not achieving this goal? For example, how you respond to failure or learning what makes you happy?
Step 2: Prepare to Create and Set New Goals
- A goal usually begins with the idea to experience something new, pursue a passion, or accomplish something audacious. What ideas get you excited, nervous, or energized?
- Once you have an idea, ask yourself what the motivation is behind your goal. Why do I want to pursue this goal? Is it inspired by intrinsic motivation, extrinsic or both? This requires honesty on your part. (i.e. I want to race in an Ironman 70.3 in Europe or New Zealand. I want to race to see the country from a new perspective, because I love to be active and outdoors, and because I want to challenge myself)
- Remember, it’s okay to have a goal that’s extrinsically motivated (e.g. money, winning, fame, family approval, avoiding punishment). It is, however, important to be aware of the difference between the two. You may start to recognize a pattern in the success of your goals and the motivation behind them.
Step 3: Write Your Goal
- A big goal might take years to accomplish. Goals are meant to be challenging to reach, this will show you how much you truly want it. Set the date you will accomplish it by. Let’s start with this date as the end point in mind and work our way back.
- Make it quantifiable: Any wishy-washiness in the measurability of your goal allows you to be wishy-washy in accomplishing it. This is why I’ve secretly forbade the use of the word “someday”.
- Be specific and current: Articulate the details of the event, circumstance, activity of the goal. Use present tense.
- Keep it in the affirmative language: Utilize the power of positive language by stating your goals in affirmative manner.
- Short and sweet: Use as few words as possible, get down to the nitty gritty of your goal.
Step 4: Achieve Your Goal Down
- Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to achieve this goal?” Create a list with an order of events and dates in which you’ll achieve each item by.
- Write each item in the same format as your initial goal.
Step 5: Take Action
- Practice personal accountability. The choices you make in every second of every day can take you closer to a goal or farther from it. How do YOU hold yourself accountable every day?
- Share away. Put your goal up on the fridge, share it with a friend, and shout it out on a mountain top (seriously, saying a goal out loud can go a long way, literally). Where can you recruit, enroll, or ask others to help you with your goals? Is there a way you can empower them at the same time?
Whether we achieve our goals or not, we are given the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and test our boundaries. As I love to say to my clients when I take them through a balancing pose, “I don’t care if you fall. What I care about is how you respond to falling. And if you never fall, you might want to ask yourself, are you taking yourself to your true edge?”