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Unlock Your Potential: 3 Steps to Creating and Achieving Challenging Goals

More often than not New Year's resolutions fall flat and are abandoned after just a few months or even weeks. For most people these changes are extrinsic and poorly motivated, and worse, people unknowingly create goals that are setting themselves up for failure right from the start. No more of this! I want to help you achieve your riding goals so I will be giving you the three fundamental steps to doing just that!

Step-One: Finding Motivation

The number one reason most New Year's resolutions are doomed to fail is the fact that they are extrinsically motivated. This means the motivation and desire are coming from outside: you feel pressured to make a resolution because it's a New Year's tradition, your friends are all working towards a goal together and you want to join, or simply you want to make huge lifestyle changes because "new year, new me".

The number one, most important tip to creating a goal that you'll stick to and want to work towards every day is to create one that is intrinsically motivated. What do you want to change or do, think about what will make you happy if you achieve it even if no one else knows. Using the classic weight loss goal, if you want to lose weight because everyone else made a goal too, you have no real incentive to work towards the goal because your driving force is to look successful to these other people who made a similar goal. Conversely, if you decide you want to lose weight because it will make you more happy and confident with your body, reduce pain and make you more able to do things, or even just increase your longevity and general health, these are all things that will make you and you alone happy when you complete your goal.

Chances are, if you are making new goals for yourself and you are waiting until the new year to start, you are extrinsically motivated. If you want to make meaningful changes to your life, your internal motivation should be driving you to start right now! Start making little changes that keep you on track and remind you of your end goal.

If your goal truly is intrinsic and meaningful to you, write it down in several places as a constant reminder. Make mood or vision boards to help you conceptualize and visualize the process and end result. These are excellent things to keep as a phone or computer background, to keep next to your bed or on the fridge to see every day, or even find time to sit down regularly and actively visualize the process. Make sure that when you are working tirelessly and it seems like progress is slow, you still have a reminder of what's at the end if you keep pushing.

Step-Two: Determine What You're Capable Of

Another major reason New Year's resolutions fail to come to fruition is their unnecessary complexity and difficulty. If you have never successfully lost 10 pounds and kept it off, making a goal to lose 50 pounds may be so outside the realm of possibility that it could be so demoralizing and frustrating that you give up without making any meaningful progress at all.

The key to making goals that you can stick to is to figure out what you are truly able to give and be realistic. You want to push yourself and have a challenge, but what's the point of struggling endlessly just to never see yourself get close?

Time, Energy, Effort

The three biggest barriers to achieving your goal are the amount of time, energy, and effort you can dedicate toward it. For endurance sports training, more volume is usually better, but if your lifestyle can only afford you riding 10 hours a week and you try to cram 20 hours every week, you will quickly become burnt out as you sacrifice other major aspects of your life for this goal. This may be possible for you if your intrinsic motivation is so high that you are willing to make these sacrifices, but it usually isn't worth it nor is it sustainable.

Similarly, think of how much physical effort you can afford to put into your goal. If you have the time to ride 20 hours per week, but your job is very physically demanding and tiring, it may not be a sustainable goal for you. This requires a bit more experience with yourself and what you are trying to achieve. If your goal is something completely new to you, it may be necessary to update and alter the goal after some time after realizing just how much effort it will take and how much you can put in. It is much better to alter your goal and achieve something slightly smaller instead of giving up entirely and going back to where you started.

Finally, you need to think about the amount of effort you can put into your goal. I like to think of energy as the physical cost and strain on your body when working towards your goal, and effort as the emotional, psychological, and mental strain it requires. There is no doubt that high-performance cycling training can be painful at times, and maybe you do not quite have the psychological bandwidth to willingly and regularly force yourself into uncomfortable situations like that, and that is perfectly okay. Try not to push yourself into too much psychological discomfort too often or this can lead to burn out and giving up on the goal entirely.

Step-Three: Be SMART

The 5 fundamental points to keep in mind when developing are Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. By following these you can ensure you have all the necessary components written in your goal to keep you diligent and motivated.


When creating a goal, be specific about what exactly you want to achieve. Instead of simply saying “I want to get fitter” or “I want to be faster”, think of how specifically you want to be fitter or faster. Maybe you have a personal best time you want to beat, you have a weight loss goal, you want to do the local group ride without getting dropped, or even an average speed goal for a ride. These don’t even need to be performance-based, your goal could be that you want to complete your first century or ride a certain amount within a year. Think about how you will be able to determine if you are successful or not.


Making your goal measurable is like taking specificity one step further. If your goal of “I want to be faster” was made more specific by saying “I want to beat my personal best on X course” then the next step would be to say “I want to beat my personal best on X course by Y minutes”. Having a concrete way to determine if you have attained your goal or not is essential; when you make your goal think to yourself “What exactly do I need to be successful”?


While your goal should be challenging, you still want to be able to achieve your goal. It would be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing to set yourself a goal that you can work towards for decades and never get close to achieving. After completing Step-Two, you should have a good idea of what this means for you.


This is an important aspect if you have created several goals, each of your goals should have at least some sort of overlap with each other. Working towards one goal will help you achieve your next one and so on, sort of like a linear achievement path.


There should be a set date that you want to be completed by, this not only gives you a sense of urgency to keep you diligent, but it also means you are more likely to be mindful of the goal itself. If you don’t give yourself a date to complete a goal, you could continue to push it off and say to yourself “I'll start tomorrow” because you will have no obligation to continue working towards it.

Bonus Tip: Make Concurrent Goals

Having a big goal to work towards throughout the entire year can be daunting, so I like creating several, smaller but concurrent goals to break up this larger main one. You should still use all three steps to create these smaller goals, but make them more attainable and in a shorter time frame.

Having 3 smaller goals to be completed at 3,6, and 9 months will help keep you on track for a full 12-month-long one. It may be difficult to see substantial progress if your goal is to be completed in a year and you are 4 months in, by having these smaller endpoints you can not only see the progress more granularly but celebrate small victories or make adjustments to the process if your smaller goals are not met.

The easiest example to use here is through an annual riding mileage goal. If you made a goal to ride 6000 miles within a year, you could make small weekly goals of 120 miles, monthly goals of 500 miles, or some combination of these or even a different structure entirely. These smaller mini-goals help keep you on track day to day without getting lost in the entire process.

Looking to put together an entire season of training on your own? Check out the Intro to Structured Training: Beginner's Handbook for a more thorough walkthrough.


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