Have you ever crossed the finish line only to be awash in regret and disappointment?
Do you become self-critical and obsess over what could have gone better in your race? That you should have beaten your personal best?
If you’re never satisfied with your results and constantly aim for perfection, you’re not alone.
Even Olympians battle these thoughts.
I am an insecure person…I am emotional. I am a self-critical perfectionist.”
“I’m terrible. I beat myself up the whole time because I’m striving for something I’ll basically never achieve.
I portray this image of confidence, of arrogance, and it’s not really me. I’m never satisfied and I’m never content.”
Victoria Pendleton, cyclist
You’re an endurance athlete, so you’ve set high standards, creating a great deal of self-imposed pressure.
But, even in goal setting for athletes, there’s a fine line between healthy striving and unhealthy perfectionism.
Healthy striving leads to high, exacting standards for your athletic pursuits.
And, it helps you:
- Strengthen your confidence
- Control and reduce competitive anxiety
- Accept your limitations
- Stay realistic and flexible
It means increased satisfaction with your training and race day performance. Contentment with your efforts means that you’re more likely to focus and do well.
But if you set impossibly high standards, seeking flawlessness, and dismissing your achievements, it’s a sure sign you’ve entered the harmful perfectionist territory.
The problem with lofty standards is that it forms gap between your expectations and reality.
This creates a destructive scenario where you fail to reach unrealistic standards then obsess and criticize yourself over your failure, ultimately losing confidence and motivation.
Bottom line: Beating yourself up does you no good at all.
So how do you keep your standards high without becoming overly negative?
Goal setting for athletes: How to strive for your goals without sacrificing your well-being
Focus on beating your personal best by gaining mastery.
1// Set a stretch goal and zero in on one specific area of your performance. Your growth as an athlete will come from seeking out skills you can’t do yet.
Sometimes the skills you hate to do are the things you must do to improve.
Hate interval training? Do the intervals.
2// Give it your undivided attention and concentrate on the effort it will to take to improve.
3// Get immediate feedback and analyze what isn’t working to make adjustments. The important thing is to act on what you’ve learned.
4// Repeat the skill until it becomes second-nature and automatic.
5// After mastering your stretch goal, find another goal and start this process over.
Goal setting for athletes: Here’s a compelling reason on why you should review your training log.
We’ll assume that you kept a training log. But if you haven’t, it’s where you note your workouts, mood, weather, etc. and provides you with important insight to what works and what doesn’t for you.
Take a moment to conduct a post-race analysis. If you’re ruminating over what could have been, pay special attention to the things that went well.
You can’t afford not to.
It’s tempting to gloss over these mini successes. But, small, everyday wins are solid proof you’re making progress and improvements.
These are the results that build the foundation toward your larger goal.
You know the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from finishing a demanding workout? The feeling that you’ve gotten your training in and all is well with the world? It’s what makes endurance sports so addicting.
Small wins provide a similar experience. Once you highlight your successes and note your achievements, you get hooked on building and chasing even more victories.
It’s a natural motivation booster. (If you’d like even more tips on increasing motivation, read this Athlete’s Motivation Guide for When You’re Not Feeling It.)
Your progress as an athlete comes from a focus on growing your skills. And, when you’re deep in the grind and unmotivated, remember to bolster your motivation by acknowledging your successes.
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Sources: Goal Setting for Athletes
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth
The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile, Steven Kramer