What Crossfit's Murph Workout Taught Me About Goals
This is the time of year for setting new goals -- a chance to make corrections or strive to meet new challenges, whether personal or professional. And, inspiration can come when you least expect it. Here are a few thoughts on setting and achieving goals for the new year.
All of us are capable of achieving far more than we allow our minds to conceive. The challenge we encounter when taking on goals isn't the scale, but in the type of goal we often set.
Throughout my adult life, I've been passionate about the power of goals. I've read about them, studied successful people's philosophies on goals and have even written and coached on the subject. Over the past four months, though, I've made a most valuable personal discovery about setting and achieving goals.
Last summer, I happened to watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN. I was inspired by all the athletes who demonstrated amazing physical and mental commitment well above the norm. One workout in particular caught my attention. It's called Murph. Named after a U.S. Navy Seal who lost his life serving his country, Murph is infamous for being particularly grueling: a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats and a final one-mile run -- all while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest for time.
Back then, I was recovering from a minor injury and looking for something to push me. After watching the Crossfit Games, I found my motivation. Conquering the Murph workout in less than 55 minutes was my new goal. While I like to think of myself as someone who is reasonably fit, I must admit that when I committed to the workout, I was secretly wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Even so, excitement about achieving my new goal trumped all apprehension, and I immediately began to incorporate everything I'd learned about goal-setting. I started by publicly sharing my goal with several dozen co-workers during a training session I was leading. If that didn't keep me accountable, nothing would.
Next, I began reverse engineering what it would take to get in good enough shape to complete the workout, and rushed to write out benchmarks in meticulous fashion. But I had to stop myself there.
Because I was working back from an injury, one of my biggest concerns was getting hurt again. If hitting a certain rep count weeks before tackling Murph caused this, I would have won the battle but lost the war. Instead, I backed off the hard targets of X number of pull-ups by week Y. I then directed my focus, not on results, but on the right habits. I concentrated on the number of workouts a week rather than carefully recording each repetition. Refocusing my tracking mechanism made all the difference. My attention shifted from being obsessive about individual workout results to the overall process.
I knew if I did a maximum-effort workout, regardless of how many reps or the weight lifted, I was one step closer to reaching my goal. That subtle change helped tremendously. In the past, if I was off my target number of reps by my target date, my mind would have reverted to a state of discouragement and doubt. By allowing myself to have faith that the right habits would get me there, I eliminated much of the pressure.
When utilizing a series of daily result or outcome goals to achieve a major goal, it's very easy to become discouraged. Focusing every day on the right habit or process, though, still allows you to close the gap between you and your goal. It's why weight loss experts tell you to not weigh yourself too frequently. The scale inevitably will defeat you if you are too outcome oriented in a micro timeframe. Instead, focus consistently on eating healthy and being active. These habits will get you where you want to be.
In my case, by re-calibrating my focus on the process, I was able to achieve my target of completing Murph in less than 55 minutes -- with a few minutes to spare.