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Psyched Up or Psyched Out?


Me, my trophy and my friend Rochelle (who took 3rd place OVERALL in the Olympic division. I should train with her a little more often). Credit: Jared Seymour

I really like concrete goals. I like having something to aim for, and I like concrete measures of success. I even like knowing what kind of work I need to do to achieve those goals.

(I also enjoy lists and spreadsheets. Now who’s ready to party?)

I should mention that, as much as I like setting goals, I tend to set them pretty high. You know, shoot for the moon and all that. Needless to say, I don’t always meet my goals, but I’m okay with having something to continue working toward; room for improvement isn’t a bad thing.

But, this weekend, I lowered my expectations. I had a sprint triathlon, and honestly, I knew I wasn’t prepared. Between insane travel for work and other obligations, I haven’t done the kind of training one should do to aim for a PR in a race. I mean, I like to set (and meet) goals, but I also know my limitations, and I knew that this weekend wasn’t the weekend to aim for a speedy bike ride or a sub 30-minute 5K run.

So, I modified. The swim was really short—just 1/4 mile, which is about 400 yards. I knew I could kill it, and I knew that, unless there happened to be some really serious swimmers in my division, I could really compete. So I decided that I would put everything I had into the swim, and then coast along for the bike and the run. The only goal I had was to be the first woman in my division out of the water. After that, I was just going to have a good time, enjoy the atmosphere, get a good workout and then claim my free beer at the end.

I ended up meeting that goal, having a really, really excellent race, and taking 2nd place in my division.

Umm, say what?

I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I  really hadn’t trained, and it wasn’t a matter of being up against a slow group; I would’ve been thrilled with my performance whether I’d placed or not. The only factor I can think of is my change in attitude. I’ve always assumed that setting a challenging goal for myself was a way to get psyched up, but is it possible that I’m psyching myself out? Is there a chance that, as soon as that goal seems out of reach, some part of me…gives up?

I truly don’t know. What I do know is that this was one of the most enjoyable and successful races I’ve done, and I definitely want to recreate that experience. I’ve got a 5K on Saturday, so I think I’m going to try that nonchalant attitude once again and see what happens.

But I’m curious. Have you ever changed up your goal-setting strategy and seen a big difference? Tell me all about it. Please! —Kristen

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