Updated 20th June 2020 

Motivation and setting goals are often discussed in relation to coaching and cycling.

People often speak about great cyclists and athletes being very highly motivated.

Athletes clearly must be highly motivated to achieve big performances.  Also, huge motivation is required sustain the training loads required for top sporting performances.

Direction of motivation 

However, the motivation needs to be directed in a way that achieves success and enjoyment for the athlete.

Coaches and parents also require an understanding of motivation to support and guide athletes.

One aspect of motivation

I will focus on one aspect of motivation in this blog. The idea for this particular blog came from a chapter in one of my favourite books.

This is the Winner effect by Trinity College Neuroscientist Professor Ian Robertson.

The winner effect

The WINNER EFFECT  What makes a winner? Why do some people succeed both in life and in business, and others fail?” (the science of success and how to use it}

This book explains the science behind a lot of human behaviour. Much  of it is very relevant to sports people and how they behave and perform.

Setting Goals

There’s a very interesting section in this book on the importance of setting goals. How setting goals correctly or incorrectly can impact on achieving success or failure.

Too much of a good thing

As I was reading a section of The Winner Effect in the last while I noticed these words in the section “Too much of a good thing”

The Winner Effect page 27 / 28 By Professor Ian Robertson

Professor Robertson spoke about a fellow student he knew when at College

‘Peter’ was talking intensely about how he wanted to make a fundamental discovery in science, one that would change the world.

I had heard him say things like that before; it was as if he wanted to be another Darwin.

Instead within a year ‘Peter’ had dropped out of university – he seemed suddenly to have lost his motivation.”

Where to Focus your goals

Some more very related quotes from this section.

“If you focus on only on a distant, enormous goal then you will devalue everyday achievements and make them seem worthless.”

Master day to day challenges

“Keeping motivated, therefore, means enjoying the intrinsic satisfaction of mastering day to day challenges”

Note the important words in the second sentence quoted.

“If you focus only on a distant, enormous goal then you will devalue everyday achievements and make them seem worthless.”

Cyclists and athletes dreams of being Pro or the Olympic medal

As I was reading it I thought about the cyclists and athletes who only chase the dream of becoming a professional cyclist or winning an Olympic medal.

How many of them have dropped out of cycling at a young age because of this approach? 

This has often been years before they reached their full potential.

Maybe if they had just focused on  achieving challenging but achievable goals day after day, they may have achieved their big goal.

“Keeping motivated, therefore, means enjoying the intrinsic satisfaction of mastering day to day challenges”

Imagine that ‘Peter’ was a cyclist/ athlete

Lets think of ‘Peter’ as an athlete / cyclist. What’s the likely outcome when they realise that they will not become a professional cyclist or win the Olympic medal?

If their focus has been only on only on a distant, enormous goal.  Is it likely that they will drop out of their sport and chase the dream somewhere else?

Sport for enjoyment and challenge

However, according to the Winner effect. If they had been just enjoying their sport and achieving the smaller goals / challenges they might have been quite successful.

Alongside having the small and medium goals they could be working towards the big goal of Professional / Olympic medal.

If they have good ability most likely they will achieve some success along the way.and maybe even win the Tour or Olympic medal as part of the journey!

Dream goals and realistic goals

I suppose this is the practical idea of setting a dream goal and then realistic goals. For example what do I need to do now, tomorrow and this year to progress?. The realistic goals are the stepping stones to be dream goal.

Cycling and the marathon

Enjoy your sport

The joy of sports participation

At the end of the day it looks like the best reason for doing any sport is still just for the sheer joy of doing it.

This approach will also more likely lead to better and consistent performances if the athlete is supported and guided in the correct manner.

Look around you and notice how many cyclists’, athletes who were very good are still enjoying participation in their sport in some form.

Are there others who have dropped out of Cycling who might come back if they understood how to reshape their goals? Hopefully there are.

Paddy Doran High performance cycling coach.


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