Ways to Succeed As a Cyclist Not Motivated by Goals

By Jiri Kaloc

Did you set no New Year’s resolutions? Do you have no personal records you’re dreaming of breaking? No podiums to fight for? Some may think that you’re crazy having no cycling goals. But we think you can be a successful cyclist whoimproves over time even without goals to motivate you. Here is how.

Society likes goals

We are told at every corner that we need to set specific, measurable, actionable, reachable, and time-bound goals to succeed. It’s very easy to get encouragement and approval for setting and reaching goals in our current social environment. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Goal setting is very effective at achieving athletic or personal success and achievements should be celebrated.

The only issue comes when you’re not the type of cyclist who enjoys setting goals. You may start doubting yourself and feel like you’re missing out even if you’ve been doing just fine with no goals. The thing is, plenty of people are highly internally driven and curious. And writing down specific goals may not add anything and could even be detrimental to their progress. If you’re one of those people, this is a reminder that your progress can be just as rewarding and celebration worthy, goals or not.

What are the downsides of goal setting?

Even something as widely recommended and effective as goal setting does have downsides. Here are the most common ones. If you’re someone who doesn’t set goals, this will likely resonate with you.

High expectations: Life often gets in the way of our plans and not every goal can be reached. That’s normal but it can lead to frustration and disappointment, which can actually decrease motivation over time.

Overemphasis on results: Goals can lead you to overemphasise results at the expense of the process. This might lead to cutting corners and neglecting important values, which hurts you in the long run.

Rigidity: Strictly adhering to specific goals can make it difficult to adapt to changing circumstances. Unexpected opportunities can easily be missed.

Stress and anxiety: The pressure to achieve goals, whether internal or fuelled by peers, can lead to a chronic increase in stress and anxiety.

Reduced intrinsic motivation: If goals are set based on external rewards or pressures, it’s not uncommon to experience a reduction in intrinsic motivation – the joy of doing something for its own sake.

Having no goals creates opportunities

People who don’t set goals instinctively understand these downsides and take advantage of the opportunities that arise from them.

Flexibility: Having no fixed goals keeps the door open for unexpected opportunities. It’s easier to pivot and grow in a new way if you are not hyper-focused on a very specific outcome. This advantage is most appreciated by people going through a challenging, unpredictable period of life such as: becoming a new parent, making big career changes or moving to a different country. The no-goal approach gives people in these circumstances more chances to find success.

More focus on the now: Focusing less on future outcomes allows for a greater presence in the moment. Paying attention to the beautiful nature around you, the wind on your skin or the sensation of going fast can enhance the enjoyment of cycling. Being more mindful can also reduce stress and improve your quality of life, as you’re less preoccupied with where you “should” be according to your goals.

Lifelong learning: Some cyclists may feel stifled by deciding in December what the next year of cycling will look like based on the goals set. When organic curiosity is left untouched to drive the process, it can be much easier to stay a lifelong learner, thirsty for new adventures and hungry to master new skills.

Which way is right for you?

It should be clear by now that there is a type of person who thrives without goals. But what if you’re not sure it’s you? A great way to get a good sign is to look at your past accomplishments. Are you happy with how you progressed when you had no clearly defined goals? And how about when you were working towards one?

If no goals have served you well in the past, feel empowered to keep doing that. You can find your way of celebrating progress even if society would have an easier time understanding it through goals. Lastly, it’s good to keep in mind that there are many hybrid approaches that can be effective too. Having many goals or none can come and go as you move through different life stages and circumstances.