By, Kate Durham
As we enter 2021, we look back on a year full of unexpected challenges. Simultaneously, it’s been empty of many of the athletic events we’ve grown to expect to reminisce on in a year-end retrospect. In our fitness-focused world, we’ve missed countless external finish lines this year, and we don’t know when they will return. The pandemic has left us in a state of “Now What?” How do we change our goal-setting perspectives to better prepare us for “Now What?” moments in life?
To prepare for 2021 and beyond, we want to distinguish between an external finish line and an internal finish line. So what is the difference? An external finish line can be a literal finish line, or another physical achievement, such as climbing the rope for the first time or deadlifting 300 lbs. An internal finish line is a goal that is met from within, such as learning to consistently repel your negative self-talk or overcoming your fear of failure to try something new. These are separate, but intertwined, types of goals. More essentially, you cannot effectively continue to achieve external finish lines without focusing on your internal finish lines.
2020 has been quite the year for internal goals. Many of us have crossed internal finish lines, perhaps without even realizing it. We’ve learned how to be resilient and adaptable. We’ve learned how to work out through the challenges of the pandemic. We’ve learned to be patient, with ourselves and the world around us. These are all internal finish lines that are better preparing us for the future.
The results of our internal finish lines - increased confidence, mindfulness, resiliency, etc - are inherently beneficial to the external finish lines we will continue to set for ourselves. For example, someone who used this year to come to a sense of inner peace about their current state of fitness may be able to approach training with less frustration and anxiety, freeing themselves up to achieve their goals in a more productive manner. Someone who worked on their fear of failure may be able to finally get up and over a particularly hard obstacle because they aren’t as consumed by their certainty that they will fall. Someone who works on calming themselves down when they are frustrated or stressed may be less likely to partake in self-sabotage activities like bingeing unhealthy foods on a bad day. All of these effects make us stronger athletes and more capable human beings overall.
Like with any goal, the key to deciding what to set as your internal finish line comes with understanding what you are lacking in. For example, if I understand that I have a hard time with beating negative self-esteem, then my goal could be to work on acknowledging my negative self-talk and redirecting it with a positive mantra like, “I am capable of achieving my goals”. This will be different for everyone, and it’s not always easy to see. I highly recommend taking some time to yourself and examining these struggles deeply. Take some time off of your usual schedule, separate yourself from the noise of your day-to-day life, turn your phone to airplane mode, and use that time to examine what you really need to work on. This can be a painful process, but it’s always valuable.
We’ve all been talking about how hard 2020 is for the majority of this year. We’ve been talking about how lost we’ve been, about how unsure we’ve been during the events of this unprecedented year - the “Now What” feeling. But the reality is that there will always be “Now What” moments in life. If your goals are primarily about bettering your mindset and becoming more resilient rather than having cool, photo-friendly finish lines, you will be better prepared for those moments. Right now, we might not have for-sure events in our immediate future to prepare for, but if we approach our goal-setting with a more internally-focused mindset, we will be able to knock the event-based external goals out of the park when they do return.