Reggie Rivers: To Achieve Your Goal, Don’t Focus on It

Last weekend, we parents of snow sport athletes at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail had a chance to hear Reggie Rivers speak.  Reggie is a dad, husband, author, broadcaster and motivational speaker.  Reggie also played running back for the Denver Broncos from 1991 to 1996.  As you would expect, he shared a lot of stories about growing up as an athlete, being the parent of a young athlete and, to the delight of several men in the audience, what it was like to play with John Elway and Shannon Sharpe.

He spoke about the importance of an athlete’s mental strength — that having extraordinary ability may not be enough to succeed as an elite athlete.  For some, great but not extraordinary ability plus mental strength carries them to that higher level and beyond much better than someone who hasn’t learned to deal with the pressure and intensity of competition.  He also talked a bit about those who peak too early and shared stories about the high school superstar who dominated at 16 and by 18 had fallen behind the ones who developed later.  He talked about the value of losing and the importance of letting your kid find his or her passion (emphasis on the his or her) in a supporting and grounded home.  All good things for young athletes and their parents to hear.  Much of it we had heard, but it was fun to hear him speak from personal experience.

At the end of his talk, he spoke to goal setting, and for whatever reason it really resonated for me in terms of all of life, not just athletics.  I had heard something similar before, perhaps with different words, but not with the same impact.  His message went something like this:


Goals are almost always out of your control.

So set your goal, whatever it may be, and determine what you can do (behaviors) to move you in the direction of achieving your goal.

Behaviors are almost always within your control.

Your goal stays on a wall or in a drawer somewhere and you may look at it from time to time.  But your focus should be on what you can control.  For an athlete:  nutrition, sleep, gym time, mental preparedness.  For a manager:  team planning, establishing and managing to metrics, working on presentation skills.  For a writer: writing every day, joining and participating in a peer review group, submitting a set number of articles each week.

Behaviors are today, tomorrow and this week.

Every day, consider whether what you are doing is consistent with moving in the direction toward your goal.  If not, reevaluate.  Do you really want to achieve that goal?  Are your behaviors the right ones to get you there?  Don’t let a set back get you off track.  Re-engage.

Success is moving in the direction you want to go, at the rate you want to go.

We don’t all move at the same speed.  Recognize when you have succeeded by implementing behaviors that are moving you toward your goal.


Food for thought.  Of course, much of the impact of his message was in the delivery, which I haven’t done justice.  If you want to see the real deal, check out Reggie’s TEDx talk on the subject:

▶ If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them: Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED – YouTube

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