“What it comes down to is that success demands singleness of purpose. Some call it mental toughness; I think it is singleness of purpose and, once you have agreed upon the price that you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to forget that price. It enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure and the temporary failures.”
– Vince Lombardi
I’ve been thinking about and talking about using “micro-goals” a lot lately, both for myself and for those that I coach. We’re all constantly dealing with problems in our lives, and now we have the overarching concern of staying healthy and away from a potentially lethal disease sweeping the world. That’s a lot to manage, and if we look at it all together, it can be very easy to get flustered and turn away from the problem and toward self-destructive behavior.
A great strategy to use when a big problem or obstacle is in front of us is to break it up into smaller, more manageable problems. Instead of trying to achieve a goal of getting a new job, break it into micro-goals of updating your resume, getting a first interview, studying the company, crushing the interview. Don’t look ahead until you have accomplished your micro-goal, and then review your overall plan again, and get to work. Instead of staying so focused on the overall goal of losing 30 pounds, focus on the very specific micro-goal of eating a healthy meal. Check that box, and move on to the next meal. If you mess up one time, don’t throw out the whole goal for the rest of the day or the week, just refocus again on your next micro-goal. You can get back on track!
Luckily, as CrossFitters we have many opportunities to practice this in the gym! Below is a blog post that I wrote BACK IN THE DAY, in 2017. It has to do with a (not so) favorite workout of mine, something we might be doing tomorrow…
“Karen”: 150 Wallballs for time
Singleness of purpose. When Coach Lombardi equated that with mental toughness, a more widely-used term, I thought of the other way that I’ve heard this put before — Tunnel Vision. Having Tunnel Vision in some situations might be seen as a bad thing — in a team meeting or conversation with several people, for example. But in the face of an old-fashioned Stamina workout like this, where you know it’s going to hurt and you have to get through a tremendous amount of work to make the pain stop, I can’t think of a better mindset.
Let’s also add Goal-setting to the mix, and call the best mindset for a long grinder “Goal-Oriented Tunnel Vision”. You know the task at hand — your amazing CFKI coach has briefed the workout and you’ve internalized the workout. Rather than taking a trip to Negative Town like Sally Sobstory who is literally spewing negative emotions out of her mouth, you use Goal-Oriented Tunnel Vision to chop-up the 150 Wallballs into 15 sets of 10. At “3-2-1-GO!”, focused on your first micro-goal of 10 Wallballs, you get to work. Easy day! But when the negative thoughts of “I’m so tired”, “There’s no way I’m getting through this”, “Look at David, he’s crushing me!” inevitably pop into your head, you acknowledge that these are unhelpful, negative thoughts, and instead snap your focus back with “I got this!” “Only 10 reps, I can do it!”
You mark your progress with a mark on your whiteboard, stand back up, and continue setting and meeting your goals until your trip through the Tunnel is over, and you emerge stronger, both physically and mentally, having practiced positivity and Goal-Oriented Tunnel Vision, and achieved success, cementing the process in your mind for next time!
It’s important to note that this mindset is not just applicable to long workouts, but can be relevant to anything in life that seems insurmountable — a huge work project, or even a massive pile of dishes in the sink. Set your goal at one dish, and get going!