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Why Our Big Goals Sometimes Crush Our Souls

One of my favorite excuses is: “I don’t have the motivation.”

We humans don’t mean anything harmful by that excuse.  But it can cause issues.

The “lacking in motivation” excuse is as insidious as being a repeat quitter.  Once you start quitting, it makes it easier to quit.  Once you declare yourself lacking in motivation–well, then we might as well make a t-shirt:  Motivation Stops Here

Sometimes “lacking motivation” is a trait we are given as a child–like how I would never, ever be a runner–and we hang on to it.

Oh dear me, well, I would do that, but I am forever lacking in motivation.

I get it. I am “forever terrible in running.” The struggle is real.  But the truth is–I run just fine.  Yes. Truth. Nothing is wrong with my body or my legs.  My short legs just don’t turn over as fast or as gracefully as other people’s… but there’s nothing wrong with me and running.  I run. I can run. I do run. I run far. Sometimes I run fast. Sometimes I don’t.

But there is nothing wrong with my run, just like there is nothing wrong with my motivation.

Chances are there is nothing wrong with your motivation, either.

I will admit:  motivation (as it seems) is a booger, though.

[Go here to read a post about how discipline and motivation are linked (and unlinked)].

For example, I have decided against starting a lot of major races in the past–usually about the time the hard stuff started in training. But surprisingly, after dissecting the blueprint for these DNS (Did Not Start) events, it often wasn’t motivation that I was lacking.

Sure, sometimes I failed with discipline.  

I could be lazy, sure.  I could lack discipline, yep. Discipline lack showed up when  I really wanted to do the race. I wanted the finish… and I went for it.  But I just wasn’t disciplined to work hard enough to do well or make it happen as well as I wanted. The struggle bus or bad attitude could flare up on a dime, and the races were really hard.

Sometimes my lack of discipline was disguised as a lack of motivation–but really, I wasn’t into working harder for a better reward. I just wanted to do the race on the least amount of gas possible.

And hell, that’s okay sometimes.  Who says we have to PR everything? Go forth and do races however you want to do them.

But then sometimes the reason I didn’t show up to a race or train for something (aside from real reasons like injury or sickness)… well, it was something else.

Most of the time, I was lacking the proper Fs to give.  I was shutting down.  Because I signed up for the race for the wrong reasons in the first place.  My coach really nailed it when he said, “You are doing this race for the wrong reasons,” talking about Ironman Texas in April (which I “really wanted to do” but didn’t want to ride my bike for more than 2 hours.)

And yes, there’s a distinction between:

  • I am unmotivated.
  • I am not disciplined.
  • I really just don’t give a shit.

See… in order to have motivation OR discipline, we have to have a WHY.

The WHY is precisely the shits we give.

There is a reason we are doing this particular race. There is a reason we are doing this activity or sport. The thing that keeps us going over and over, week and month and year after year—that reason has to be strong for the motivation and discipline to kick in.

We must care about the reasons we are doing this thing–over and over again–because if we stop caring, then it’s over.

When there is a “why”, we can find the elusive motivation. We can dig deep, we can make the discipline happen.  Our friends, our training partners, our coaches can pull the work, the drive and the gusto out of us.

But when the WHY is lacking— get your hand-basket, because it’s hell time:  no one can get through to us.

The eyes staring back are blank, and we are soul-less.

Our “why” flame is dead.

So what is keeping us from making progress towards our goals?

We are choosing the wrong goals.

The goals we are choosing are not backed with a big enough WHY.

I want to do an Ironman.  

(Why?) 

[All of my friends are doing it. It will be fun.]

[[[[[[[   buzzzer sound   ]]]]]]

We fizzle. We sizzle. We just don’t have the drive to get up in the morning, because the why (our friends are doing it) isn’t just quite enough.  When we “fail” or DNS or “quit,” then we blame ourselves and add a nice self-hate and sabotage cycle to boot.

But it’s not that we are flawed or lazy or crappy people–we just picked the wrong goal.

And it doesn’t have to be forever.

Goals are directly related to timing. A goal can be wrong just because of the timing. Period.  

I get it, because I have been there.

It doesn’t meant that a goal will never happen. Maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe the flame isn’t burning like mad–right now…

Now, let’s look at this one.

I want to do an Ironman.  

(Why?) 

[My soul is on fire and burning for this finish line. I want to see that I am made of iron and metal and all the amazing things that I see on television–I want to prove that I am made of that—to no one other than myself! I am amazing and superwoman and I want to prove it. I want this for me! I want this for my family! I can do this. I will change my life with this race. I will work hard. I want it! I will have it!]

[[[[[[[   DING DING DING!!!!   ]]]]]]

 

Choosing goals is not about perfection.

Choosing goals is not about dumbing goals down either.

You CAN do whatever big and huge goal you decide.

But I promise one thing–the success of the goal is directly related to the WHY. 

I will also say that a successful goal is about picking something big that allows you to do a little good each day for yourself.  Progress.  A little.  Discipline.  A little.  Kindness to yourself.  A little.

Goals can be massive, small, and anything in between. The sky is the limit. The time is passing. Might as well do something cool that makes you happy and inspired.

All I can say is just make sure your goals line up with your heart, your passion and your joy.  The WHY has gotta make sense.

That will make the magical motivation and discipline so much “easier.”

#2018 #YearOfNoNonsenseshit-kickers

28 Comments

  • Lo

    January 8, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Seriously…..you really make me want to be better….because you don’t make it all glittery and simple…and you tell the truth…the not so pretty parts of it.
    You make me want to pull up my socks…look deep into those socks and figure why and how I want to pull up those socks

    Reply
  • Martha Russell

    January 8, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing. This is on on point in so many ways. I needed “the why” many, many times during my first IM last year and I didn’t let go of it until I crossed that finish line. Without the why, you can still complete the task and check the box, but I think the why is important if your ultimate goal is transformation and growth.

    Reply
  • Laura Haberman McKean

    January 8, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Love this Meredith! When the training gets harder and then life throws the curve ball, it can be so easy to skip the speed run, or the weight training session or shorten the run. I need goal reminders. I am printing your ending letter” dear self” to put up in my bathroom mirror, bedroom, front door…Let’s get started…and finish strong.

    Reply
  • Shira Flowers

    January 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Mer, So much yes! I am.sitting here with my training log with the new goals that I have written for this year. You have helped me to evaluate the validity and power of the goals that are MINE and no one elses. Thank you for your vision and yoir guidance.

    Reply
  • Jen

    January 8, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    I agree not having the right why can make you fizzle. I’m apt to believe my struggle is a result of poor time management amidst cold weather and lack of daylight. I could squeeze the training in during the summer months, even if my work day ran over. The journey on the trails, the laps in the pool and the group bike rides were invigorating. Now I’m fighting against the clock, frost, and dark. Battling for a win, this relentless struggle is zapping my energy. Until my why defrosts by spring, I’ll enjoy the energy you send us Meredith. Thanks for another great article.

    Reply
  • Robyn Weller

    January 9, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Cool. This validates much of where my brain is with racing and why I haven’t signed up for one in five years. My why has changed and my goals have changed. And I’m super fine with that. And in the mean time I’ve tried something else and learned to sail! Cool! Let’s see where I land (purposely!) next! ❤️

    Reply
  • Mo

    January 9, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Spot on! I don’t have a why right now and it’s so hard for me! Lack of everything! I have some
    Serious thinking and “why” searching to do! I blame a lot on the fact that I need to change my outlook because I can’t run until I let my body heal both on the inside and out! I’m starting to physically heal but until I mentally heal as well, my body and mind will not cooperate. Thanks Mere!

    Reply
  • Jodi H

    January 9, 2018 at 9:19 am

    When hard questions are asked, we are forced to seek to find the hard truth. Look deep with in that reflection in the mirror and see in side, not just the face. The “Why,” extends to all aspects of life for me, not just training. Why do I react the way I do? Why do I self sabotage? Why do I allow myself to skip training? Why do I race? Why do I continue to struggle with my job? For me, when I know the why, I understand me better and I understand my motivation better. Why do I get up at 5 am every day to train? My mindset. It sets the tone for my day, my outlook, me. Is it easy, NO, but I know that if I don’t set myself up for success, I will fail spectacularly and then I am in a cycle of self loathing.
    Thanks Mere for asking the hard question. Not only of yourself but showing us that in turn, we have to ask ourselves that question as well.

    Reply
  • Stefanie Hamilton

    January 9, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Holy Hell girl!!! I so needed this today (day late). I have lost my why in many ways. I have to find new why’s now that Mickey isn’t here. He was my why to many, many things and if I am really honest, they were his why’s, not necessarily mine. Sure, I did the triathlons for me and my why’s but I was really just proving that I could do them and once I proved them, I lost my why and didn’t really want to do them anymore. I wasn’t committed to training harder for the bigger races (I still don’t like running) so there went my why.

    It’s time to get the sh*t kickers out and find my whys!

    Reply
  • Stefanie Hamilton

    January 9, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Holy Hell Girl!!!! You hit the nail on the head for me. What are my why’s and where did they go? Since Mickey passed away I am not sure what any of my whys are for anything. Why do I have to get up in the morning, why do I have to take a shower, etc. I have to create a whole new set of why’s again. Mickey was my why for many many things and if I am being honest, they were his why’s not necessarily mine.

    It is time for me to put my sh*t kickers on and find my why’s again. I need this time to be about me and my why’s.

    Thank you for the awesome article.

    Reply
  • Gwen

    January 9, 2018 at 10:12 am

    I have to say your post totally resonates with me. I have friends who have asked me why I have stopped competing in running, cycling, triathlons. My answer is simple: I don’t want to… Like you said.. the WHY is not there. I have found I am reaching toward other goals at the moment. I’m enjoying crosstraining with weights and they make me feel like I can move the mountain. Do I still run and cycle. Yes… but why why is weight training knowing in the grand scheme of life.. it helps my running and cycling. Maybe when the northeast thaws a little this spring I will refall in love with my 2 favorite sports.. But right now.. I am happy with my current way.

    Reply
  • Lori

    January 9, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I’ve been searching for my “why” for next tri season and I realized it’s different than last year, and that’s OK. I thought I had lost my “why” ….nope, it’s just different and maybe even a bit more sane (or maybe emotionally healthier is a better way to put it) than my why from last year 😉 Without last year I wouldn’t know myself better like I do now. Learning and changing every year!

    Reply
  • Shae

    January 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    This part –> The “lacking in motivation” excuse is as insidious as being a repeat quitter. Once you start quitting, it makes it easier to quit. Once you declare yourself lacking in motivation–well, then we might as well make a t-shirt: Motivation Stops Here

    You are sooo right! It just gets easier and easier to quit and why wouldn’t we?! We already have the excuses in our heads as to why we can’t do it and why it just makes more sense to stop trying. I guess this is all a big game of mind over matter. Perhaps I need to find my why in not just the big goals but the tiny steps along the way too. Is it even possible for our big why to not be specific enough to get us through the day-to-day battles? Or does that really mean that our why is the wrong why?

    Reply
  • Hdavis

    January 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    What do you think of ‘fear of success ‘- sometimes I find myself avoiding the act of writing my goals, or registering for a race and just not showing up, or just living in denial of how far it’s really gone.
    How far there is to go…
    But it doesn’t feel like fear of failure, it feels like fear of success. Conquering that fear will be my key to rediscovering my motivation, and for that matter, my discipline

    Reply
  • Jennifer

    March 26, 2018 at 1:39 am

    I reread your article. The timing is perfect. I need to reinvent my why. I, too, have had all the excuses why I can’t. I am fed up with me. I’m so tired of trying to be perfect,hiding behind fear, and not taking the steps I need to ensure I can get my training done. I need to face my reality that I have instead become “Wendy Whiner”. I desperately don’t want to embrace this version of me anymore.

    My new why? I need and want to be the person who just does it. I need to know I can do it and don’t need to do it perfectly. I want to be able to define myself as “Girly Grit” “Fearless Flo” and “Determined Destiny.”

    Reply

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