Frame Your Goals for an Extraordinary Season

Frame Your Goals for an Extraordinary Season

Planning your season can be stressful, but it can also lead to some amazing experiences if you frame your goals in an open and vulnerable way.

What do you want to make happen for yourself this season? 

Prior to the beginning of each new season, I ask my athletes to complete a new year planner: we review the previous year and set goals for the season to come. This process is filled with the beauty of possibility, hope, and the belief of what we can achieve in the new year—you can almost feel the excitement for the experiences to come! But we all know how this goes sometimes, right? 

Possibilities can start to feel limited as stress, challenges, and life get in the way. We may subconsciously start to re-frame our goals in a negative way, focusing instead on what we don’t want to happen, rather than staying open to extraordinary possibilities. I call these “don’t want” statements “anti-goals,” and they can prevent your dreams from becoming a reality. Anti-goals might look like any of the following:

  • “I don’t want to die during the swim” vs. “I will swim in control, and adjust my position to find clear water.”
  • “I don’t want to get passed on the bike” vs. “I will NAIL my race effort.”
  • “I don’t want to fade on the run” vs. “I will pace properly and fuel and hydrate regularly.”

As an endurance athlete and a coach, I have observed over the years that when we approach a race with a pro-goal and a positive mindset, we become more process-based, which allows us to adapt to the challenges that race day inevitably brings. This mindset always materializes as our best effort on the day.

With daily practice and diligence, you will feel the difference in the pro-goal mindset, and speaking in the language of CAN DO. Resist the temptation to minimize your power with the “I don’t want” anti-goal focus.

Make no mistake: I realize what I’m asking you to do by flipping the script is hard mental work. We cling to our anti-goals for ego protection. It is challenging to state affirmatively exactly how you plan to achieve your goals, because it leaves you vulnerable. There is always a chance we may not achieve our goals, but this mindset also leaves your possibilities open – and that’s when greatness appears!

The first step in flipping the script is to recognize when you are using the anti-goal mindset to frame your thoughts and actions. Then, work to re-state your goal as a positive affirmation: the pro-goal. Useful and supportive pro-goals do the following: 

  • Provide a purposeful statement that offers a clear direction for action in a positive, productive way. 
  • Affirm what you want to make happen (not what you want to avoid). 
  • Present the goal as if it is already happening. 

In the examples I provided earlier, you can see how the first set of anti-goals don’t provide clear direction for you to follow to make your goal happen. Let’s consider one in detail so you can see how this works in practice. 

  • “I don’t want to fade on the run” vs. “I will pace properly and fuel and hydrate regularly.”

The first statement simply tells you what to avoid—without any clear directive for how you might avoid that dreaded fade at the end of the run. Because you don’t have a clear direction, this sort of anti-goal strips you of your agency. It can produce anxiety because of that perception that you might lack control. And, by focusing on fading, you are actually increasing the likelihood that it will happen. 

The pro-goal, on the other hand, gives you two clear training objectives: 1) develop your feel for pacing, and 2) practice your fueling and hydration strategy in training so you know what works on race day. Framing your goal this way also gives you a sense of agency. You can control these variables: your effort, your fueling and hydration, and most importantly, your attitude. 

This season, leave your possibilities open. Flip your script, and you’ll allow yourself to experience the extraordinary. 

Maria Simone

A USA Triathlon Level 1 and USA Cycling Level 2 certified coach, Maria Simone is the owner and head coach of No Limits Endurance Coaching. She enjoys long weekends in the pain cave, races with hills, and hard runs through meandering single track trails with her husband and two dogs. Maria takes a holistic approach to training that considers physical ability, mental strength, and life-work-training balance. Maria works with endurance athletes of all levels, with the common thread of helping her athletes pursue and achieve their big dreams. She blogs about her personal experiences in training and racing at www.runningalife.com