Thursday, November 6, 2008

Breaking a mental sweat

I really love this time of year. Post season, off season....the time where I can just do whatever I want whenever I want.

It's such a relaxing feeling.

If I feel like running, I run.

If I feel like cycling, I ride.

If I feel like swimming, I'm out of pool access right now. :)

There's alot to be said for taking a mental break after months of training for specific races, staying focused, and shooting for certain goals.

White Goodman might call that breaking a mental sweat.

Our bodies and minds really need that downtime. Most people understand the need for a break during a particular training period, but they often underestimate the importance of "rest" during the off season. We can't always be training for the next race.

That's why I love this time of year. My mind is freed up to take an honest look at my training, nutrition, personal life, committments, ability to name it, and I'll analyze it.

After talking to Mr. Nuk, I came up with tentative 3 year plan. You might think 3 years is a long time, but it's an important exercise to figure out how you are going to train to build for each training period.

Think about it in our personal and professional lives we have short term and long term goals. Why wouldn't you have those for your athletic pursuits as well?

It was in thinking through my three year plan when I started thinking about what motivates my athletic pursuits and when I feel the most successful and happy.

I came up with two types of athletes: goal oriented and process oriented. They both have goals. They both have plans. The difference is the focus. Goal oriented athletes focus on the end result: the pr, the new distance. Process oriented athletes focus on the steps (journey) to get to the goal.

Another way of saying it: goal oriented athletes are extrinsicly motivated.
Process oriented athletes are instrinsicly motivated.

This is an important difference. Extrinsicly motivated athletes might often question why they are out there. Or push themselves beyond their realistic abilities in order to reach their goals. Think about this in terms of your professional life. Extrinsic rewards are pay, bonus, etc. When we are faced with being given a bonus, we usually work harder for a short period of time. However, repeatedly researchers have shown that extrinsic rewards do not motivate in the long term and in fact cause more harm than steps are eliminated or teamwork breaks down because the goal is money. The focus is on What is the fastest way that I can get to that goal?

Process oriented athletes are intrinsicly motivated. They rarely question why they are out there because their focus is on being the best that they can be. It's an internal fire that keeps them going. Motivation to deal with challenge and adversity comes from the inside and not from the carrot. The authors of The Leadership Challenge state "....that if people are going to do their best, they must be internally motivated....When it comes to excellence, it's definitely not 'What gets rewarded gets done.', it's 'What is rewarding gets done."(174)

Let me say it this way:

Extrinsic rewards: Doing something to please others.
Intrinsic: Doing something to please yourself.

Extrinsic: Feeling forced.
Instrinsic: Doing it because you want to.

The difference is the motivation behind the goals.

My lofty goal for 2009? Accomplishing extraordinary things.

My more specific goals? Yet to be determined.

Everything good?