Turn your 2020 Goals into Gold Medals with Mental Skills Training

By Jim Afremow

“All I see is gold.”

- Jordan Burroughs, Olympic gold medalist and five-time world wrestling champion

It’s almost a new year and with that comes new possibilities – clean slate, fresh start, and ready to win. If you’re like most athletes, you probably made at least one resolution related to your sport, whether you called it that, an aim, or a goal. Setting such a target is admirable, but we know from behavioral psychology that saying something and acting on it can be two different things, and that by the time they get to December, 92 percent of people have failed to follow through on their resolutions. So, how can you become one of the 8 percent who succeed? In this first part of a new series, I’ll share some ways to use your mindset to turn intention into actions into positive habits that will propel you to – and even beyond – what you believe is possible. Once you know WHAT you want to accomplish and WHY, the Champion’s Mind app will be the HOW to help you achieve it.

Own YOUR What and Why

What do you really, really want to achieve in 2020 – and why do you want to achieve it? There’s a notable difference between setting an arbitrary goal and one that’s driven by purpose and passion. The former is reflected in cold, hard stats: 60 percent of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions within six months, and 25 percent wait a week or less before abandoning them. Not so the athletes who carefully consider what they’re targeting and, as author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek suggests, attach a powerful and enduring “why” to it that transcends the results they achieve on any given day.

The reason I italicized the word “your” in this subhead is that it’s easy to let others dictate what you should be aiming for. That could be  the expectations of a coach, teammate, parent, or even what you think others expect of you (whether that’s realistic or just supposition). But that isn’t the kind of purpose-finding why that Sinek has written and spoken so extensively about. While you can’t train and compete in isolation, it’s you who’s going to be getting up early and staying up late to put in the work. Doing this with total dedication day after day, week after week, and year after year cannot be forced by extrinsic motivators – the fire has to be kindled within you. Any goal worth fighting for and thinking, feeling, and acting differently to obtain is inside-out.

As New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” All too often, we’re so eager to get going that we charge off aimlessly without first figuring out our destination. Then when we hit an obstacle, we pinball off of it and pursue a different tangent. That’s not the way of the winner. Before you rush headlong into the New Year, set aside a few 10-minute periods to find a quiet place that’s free of distraction and noise. Take only a notepad or your journal and a pen, and let your creativity flow. Invest a little time pondering what you really want for you this year and how your goals fit with your larger purpose. Claim it as your own. Visualize what it’s going to feel like being the athlete and person you want to be. Then resolve that you’re going to go out and get it, come what may. Tell yourself, “I have what it takes to make it.”

Ink It (Don’t Just Think It)

Another tactic that’s proven to make meeting your goals more likely is to write them down and refer back to your list regularly. In fact, Dominican University psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews led a study that found people who inked their goals were 42 percent more likely to stick with them than those who merely verbalized their aims. Given that the difference between contender and champion is razor thin and can come down to one percent or less, writing down your goals can give your chances of success a turbo boost.

To take your goal-setting practice one step further, you could follow the lead of the only man to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller. In his book Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins shares how he created what he calls an Accountability Mirror. After he was finished shaving each morning, he’d celebrate what he’d done well the day before, and write down anything that he needed to do better on a Post-it note. Then he’d fix the latter as soon as possible and remove the relevant note on his Accountability Mirror. Whether you recreate this on an actual mirror, in your journal, or in your mind is up to you, but such daily self-reflection can help you identify roadblocks to your goals and then navigate over, around, or through them. You don’t need to rely on remembering to perform such a self-reflection exercise – simply fire up the Champion’s Mind app daily and let it take you to the top of your podium.

Declare It and Share It

If you really want to achieve or surpass the goals you set at the beginning of 2020, then you shouldn’t just write them down, but also share them with others. There’s evidence that suggests who you share your aims with is significant too. Researchers from Ohio State University evaluated four comprehensive studies that assessed the relationship between goal disclosure and commitment. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Applied Psychology, they concluded that students who divulged their aims to someone pretending to be a doctoral-level student, they were more likely to follow through on what they said they’d do than when they told a researcher pretending to be a student employee the same thing.

The takeaway? Tell your coach, a mentor, or a veteran teammate what you want to achieve. Have them be your accountability partner/goal buddy and offer to be theirs. Then use the Mindsetter audios in the Champion’s Mind app to develop the mental skills you need to get there, and the Energizer and Competitor sessions to keep you pushing onward. The Regenerator audios will help you to rest and reset each day to reignite for your next challenge. So, dedicate just a few minutes a day to developing a champion’s mindset, and you’ll be much more likely to reach your resolutions.

Want to keep your push to a golden 2020 going? Then check out part 2, in which we explore what to do when your goals meet with resistance and how to keep forging ahead with resilience when setbacks stymie your progress.

And download the Champion’s Mind app for your Apple or Android device now to get more of Jim's knowledge and wisdom.

Jim Afremow

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