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What was your dream when you first started out in this sport? Is it the same dream as now? If not….Why not?

When I was 10 years old, I had a dream that I would one day be an Olympic gold medallist. My dream to this day is the exact same thing. Tell me I’m crazy…. Say I’m being unrealistic, or whatever you like. But that is honestly what I want out of this sport, that’s my dream. A couple of years ago however, I got so caught up in what people thought that I stopped dreaming. I was so afraid of failing, afraid of letting people down & worried that people would think I was a loser if I told them what I was aiming for… I wasn’t even aware of it at the time, but I stopped dreaming because I didn’t want to be open to vulnerabilities and fall short.

Someone said to me recently, “I feel like I’m trying pretty hard in the race, but when someone comes up on my shoulder and passes me… It’s almost like I subconsciously give up or don’t even care about trying to beat them.” When I asked them after, “So what are your dreams & goals in this sport? What are you fighting for?” They replied simply with: “I don’t know, I don’t think I have one.”

The old cliché saying, “aim for the stars, even if you miss you’ll land on the moon” is especially true in this topic. Do you think that same person above would be very motivated if I had turned around and said, “Well maybe just start with trying to get a little closer to the person who is beating you…” I definitely wouldn’t be.

I bet every single one of you reading this could remember your sporting dream when you were 10 years old, but could you write down on a piece of paper what your dream is now?

I’m obviously not going to turn around and win an Olympic gold medal tomorrow! But I am going to turn up to every training session and race, and give my all fighting for my dream, because every day is an opportunity to be one step closer to it. My hope is that by reading this, you might find your fight again too.

Aussie Athletics Champs 400m 2018: Photo by Ewa Facioni

So my first challenge for you today is:
Find your dream.

A fun way to brainstorm your dream is to get out a piece of paper, think about what your dream is and write it down. Try it now! It might be making an Australian team, or running a certain time, or winning an Olympic medal.

Now, the second step is to go bigger. How can you out-do that dream? Write down a bigger & better version of it. That might be breaking the Australian record, or winning Olympic gold, anything you’d absolutely love to achieve.

Australian 400m national championships final: Photo by Ewa Facioni

Finally, it’s time to get really creative. Go big or go home right? What is the biggest and best version of your dream that your brain can conjure up? I’m talking world records, statues, streets named after you. Go crazy.

It’s funny how achievable that first dream you wrote down sounds now isn’t it!
Now that we have our dreams solidified in our minds. What’s the next step?

The end of the season is a great time to sit down and reflect on your races & training, but also a time to re-focus on your goals & what you want to achieve. Maybe you’re feeling down on yourself because things aren’t going the way you had planned. It is easy to start doubting yourself when this is happening.

Australian 400m national championships final: Photo by Ewa Facioni

But to quote a book I’m reading at the moment; “Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.”
How can we capitalise on this ‘opportunity to grow, & the possibilities of change’, all in the pursuit of our dreams? Goals.

Sports psychologists have mapped out 3 types of goals athletes should identify: Outcome Goals, Performance Goals, and Process Goals.

  • An outcome goal is the great big overall vision you have of what type of athlete you want to be, what you could achieve in the best-case scenario of your sport. This is quite a long-term approach and serves as a guiding light on your athletic career.
  • performance goal is more specific & medium-term, it serves as stepping-stones that help you toward the outcome goal. You could see certain races & time trials throughout the season as indicators as to how you are progressing toward your overall outcome.
  • process goal is focussed on training and everyday practices that develop you toward your performance goals. Things like training cycles, technical work & race practice.

So let’s categorise our dreams as ‘outcome goals’. They are the guiding force behind everything you do, but alone, they cannot be achieved. That’s why things like performance & process goals are so important, they are actionable and achievable steps that help lead you from where you are, to you achieving your dream.

Australian 400m national championships final: Photo by Ewa Facioni

How do we create Performance and Process Goals?
Create a map toward your dream.

(This is a job best done with your coach or mentor; so that you are both on the same page!)

If thinking about Olympic gold medals everyday is a bit daunting, try setting out some ‘Performance and Process Goals’ to help you get from A to B, and from B to C, and so on.  Get out another piece of paper, and write down these bullet points: Training, Recovery, Nutrition, Psychology, and Racing (and any other aspect you’d like to work on). Then, next to these points write down what new things you’d like to try, what is currently working, and anything you or your coach think you need to do in order to achieve that dream you wrote down.

If you collect all these points, and work with your coach to shape them into a plan, it should be pretty motivating to see your path laid out in front of you. Now that you’ve worked out what your dreams are, and you have a plan on how to move forward, the only thing left to do is go out there and enjoy the process!

It’s so easy to get stuck on goals, statistics & outcomes that we forget why we started out in the sport. Goals are definitely important to help us grow and become better athletes but it’ll all be for nothing if you forget to enjoy what you are experiencing in the moment.

So let yourself dream, learn to fight for your dreams, and use them as motivation to improve day-by-day, month-by-month, & year-by-year. But don’t let the expectations of a goal take your enjoyment of running away from you; because at the end of the day running is something you do for you!

The Australian 4x400m team at the IAAF World Relays, Bahamas 2014 (Getty Images)

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