Goal Setting and Managing Expectations in Crossfit

Setting goals and aligning your expectations is an essential part of developing a strong mindset and setting yourself up for success in Crossfit.

We all have personal expectations for what we believe we can and should achieve in the Box, on the competition floor or in life in general. 

These range hugely from athlete to athlete. They include everything from how much weight you expect yourself to be able to lift / how fast you should complete a WOD, right through to how you expect to feel once you have hit certain targets that you have set for yourself.

Expectations are often closely intertwined with goals, but they are not the same thing. A goal is an empirical fact that you either succeed in or you don’t. Say for example you want to add 10 kg to your current Squat PR. You follow a strength program carefully for half a year, retest your 1 rep max and then you find out if you can either lift the weight or you can’t. In 2016 Mat Fraser set himself the goal of winning the CrossFit Games and he achieved that goal. This year he has set himself the same goal and he will either manage that or he will not. 

Rowing Crossfitters
Train hard and set high goals for yourself

An expectation is what you think you should do, what you ought to be capable of. It could be how you think it will feel to hit that PR or win that competition, and can often be much more complex that it first appears.

Aligning your expectations with your real (not perceived) ability level also takes guts to do properly. You must remove your ego, look at the FACTS and then decide if your expectations are healthy, achievable and coming from the right place emotionally. If you have started CrossFit 2 weeks ago with no athletic background and expect to make it to the Games next year then that is probably not going to happen. Former Games Athlete Adrian Conway explains this concept very well in this video:

THE DREAM IS YOURS

All this is not to say that you shouldn’t dream big, you definitely should, but you also have to work out exactly what it will take to get you there and work out whether or not you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

MANAGING YOUR PERSONAL EXPECTATIONS

Once your goals are clear, you have a plan and you understand exactly what it will take to achieve them, then you have put yourself in a position for success. You have created a process that will help you to accomplish what you want, and you can align your expectations with your goals. 

Crossfitters Walking
Keep progressing towards your goals

REACTING TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS

There will be people that either hope you succeed, want you to fail.. or have no interest in what you are doing. So which opinions matter?

We often hear the phrase (or feel it ourselves) ‘I don’t want to let you down’. If you are entering your first competition for example and many of your friends, family and other Box members have come to watch then you don’t want to perform badly and let them down.

But the only real way to do that would be to react badly, blame others or not seize the moment…What others think is not your concern and not something you can control. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not every opinion matters. Acknowledge the opinions of those your trust and will keep you moving forward and progressing in your chosen field. Take note of them the rest, smile and don’t let them bother you.

Your goal isn’t for everyone to understand, so don’t waste time explaining it.

Seated-Crossfitter
Focus on your own goals

FOCUS AND STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE

Say your ‘lifetime’ goal is to make it to The Games or Regionals and you finally make it. What would you expect from the experience? 

Take time to understand and focus on what you can, and cannot control, and it will help to control your expectations whilst never limiting your goals or vision. 

  • Winning is NOT CONTROLLABLE
  • Performing to the best of your ability on that day.. CONTROLLABLE

When it comes to competitions and workouts, things that will happen. Pain,injury, DOMs, no reps, different climates affecting your body, delays etc. Don’t expect everything to be perfect. Stay focused on your own work, your own plan and get the job done. 

Crossfitter-on-floor
Keep pushing forwards

“HAY IN THE BARN” – TRUST YOUR WORK

When competition day comes around it boils down to the question – Have you done the work?

You should record your data. If you know that you put in the graft and did the work according to your coach and training plan then reflect back on that data if you need to remind yourself of how far you have come. If you feel nervous before a competition, trust the truth that you have put in the work and now it is time to showcase that fitness. 

Be real with yourself. Don’t hang a heavy expectation around your neck if you know that you’ve cut corners. You must be real with yourself!

  • Has your Nutrition been tight?
  • Have you put in the work?
  • Have you trained your mentality?
  • Have you slept enough?

After the event, analyse your performance.

  • Did your mindset need work ? If so get a coach.
  • Were you fatigued too early due to poor nutritional choices? seek nutrition advice!
  • Same injury recurring that you haven’t had resolved? Work with a physio in your field.
Muscle-up
Achieve your goals!

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE THAT SHARE YOUR GOAL AND EXPECTATIONS

Surround yourself with those who share a complimentary goal and are also invested in achieving it. This may be your coach, Mindset Coach, physio, nutritionist or anyone else that wants YOU TO SUCCEED and understands what they can do to help.

Do you have a team that blows smoke up your arse telling you its not your fault, the judge was no good, or you would have smashed it and probably won if Barbells had been programmed…etc (you know this happens). Are you surrounded by yes men and Instagram followers that stroke the ego?

Or do you have a team of specialist in their fields that hold you accountable for your bullshit. Are they there for you every step of the way? Do they help you acknowledge your true potential and are a team that work in partnership behind the scenes so that you are able to confidently trust your work on that competition floor?

I coach Regionals Athletes as well as everyday Crossfitters, but this concept of “team” works for athletes of all levels and abilities. Think about the people at your Box, the coaches and fellow athletes that help turn you into a better athlete and human. Share your goals with these people. Help them with their goals and push each other forward to success. 

BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT

Make the most of what is and stop worrying about what is not.

YOUR WHY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR EXPECTATIONS

  • Your WHY is more important than your expectations
  • Your Team is a integral part of your growth
  • Your commitment and attitude is everything

Your Goal Is your Goal. You need to be invested in it more than anyone else.

How To Develop a Better Mindset for Crossfit and Stop Sabotaging Yourself


Rowing Crossfitters © Ryan Edy

Crossfitters Walking © Ryan Edy

Seated-Crossfitter © Ryan Edy

Crossfitter-on-floor © Ryan Edy

Muscle-up © Ryan Edy

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About The Author

'Your Strongest Muscle and worst Enemy is your mind you must train it well' Co writing articles with Paul Warrior. Emma Hackett is a Life Coach, Mental Strength and Conditioning Coach, NLP practitioner,who has combined her passion for Sport and Knowledge of the mind and now works with Athletes as a drop in Peak Performance Coach at Reebok Crossfit Tyneside and City of Newcastle Gymnastics Academy alongside running Limitless Coaching her Life ...

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