Goal Setting: When You Really Don’t Care About Your Next PR

"Grade me...look at me...evaluate and rank me! Oh, I'm  good, good, good, and oh so smart! Grade me!"

"Grade me...look at me...evaluate and rank me! Oh, I'm 
good, good, good, and oh so smart! Grade me!"

I was always a straight-A student; National Merit Finalist; concert mistress of my orchestra. College was smooth sailing. I took in information easily. Essays emanated from my person, and test taking was a delight. Basically, all that that has meant for my actual, post-school life is that I have no idea how to struggle through something that I am not naturally good at.

I am a perfectionist, but not the kind that works until I achieve perfection in all areas of life. I am a defeated perfectionist: if I don’t believe that I can do something perfectly, I will quit before I begin.

 CrossFit was jarring for me.

I wasn’t good at anything. Literally nothing. For the first few years of CrossFit, my participation in the workouts had little to do with physical fitness. Sure, I had vague goals about being able to keep up with my toddler and not need a nap at 9am, but the thing that drew me into CrossFit was that it gave me a physical sphere to practice failing and succeeding in the same endeavor. I frequently earned the lowest score on the board while still improving from workout to workout.

So maybe this is you. Maybe you’re not primarily at the gym to get stronger or faster or lighter. Perhaps you just mentally acknowledge that working out is objectively better for your health than not working out, so you’re giving it a try, but when we talk about goal setting, you really just don’t see the point.

Here are some things you can do to give yourself direction:

Consider other things that you practice at the gym

I used to have a guest conductor who would begin our symphony rehearsals by stating that we weren’t there to practice the music. We were there to practice concentration. Think outside the box, and consider what you are doing when you go through class. You are practicing discipline, conquering fears, persevering, overcoming, progressing. Figure out what does motivate you. Figure out how you want your workouts to translate into life.

Make mental goals with accountability

For a long time my goals were these:

·      Do something that you’re afraid of

·      Don’t quit when you feel like it.

·      Work hard

These goals truly helped me feel accomplished in my workouts and reminded me of why I was doing work at all. Over time though, as I got better, it became harder for me to quantify “working hard” and “not quitting.” In my early days, not quitting meant literally not stopping until I reached the  time cap. Now it means, not moving at a leisurely pace just because I feel uncomfortable with the work. If you are setting mental goals for your workout, either find a way to tangibly measure your goals or else tell your goals to other people so they can hold you accountable as you progress.

Set Goals for Physical Improvement

Okay, I know this sounds like a contradiction of everything written above, but hear me out. Our brains and our bodies are not two disconnected elements. Every time I enter the gym, my body is able to prove to my brain that progress is not an all or nothing endeavor.  The process of setting goals and accomplishing them has been manually retraining my brain to recognize small victories as true victories. It is a tangible reminder that the process of a slow discipline in a steady direction does produce results. Setting goals gives you direction and improves your workout, which in turn benefits your mental goals. So even if you don’t feel motivated set a goal to improve your row time for the sake of your row time, do it for the sake of your discipline.