Setting goals and staying motivated to meet the challenges that arise

by Ashley Ripke - O2X Mental Performance Specialist

January 2, 2023

I’m not a runner. As a dedicated mom of three and career-driven woman, I don’t have time to run. But I’ve trained and supported thousands of Army and Special Forces soldiers on psychological skills to enhance resilience and performance in garrison and in theater.

So I decided to put my skills to work and set out to do an ultramarathon. I signed up for a 50-mile race and then wasn’t sure where to begin. But I had this fire kindling inside of me that I needed to ignite. For the last year, I’d been stagnant in my health and fitness goals. I wanted to work out and be healthier. But I didn’t have the time or was too sleep deprived to put forth any extra energy outside of work and family.

Can you relate? As a first responder, you work hard to keep your communities safe – 24/7/365. But I’m sure there’s something on your bucket list that you’ve been wanting to accomplish for yourself. Maybe it’s not running goal – or a 50-mile race. It could be a career or personal aspiration, a lifestyle change, or even a suggested goal from someone else. But if you’re looking for a place to start, here’s what I would suggest:

Step 1: Identify your goal and timeframe

For me, the 50-mile race was Nov. 19. Having a goal and timeframe is important because it gives us a target to advance toward. For example: if you want to lose weight, indicate how much weight and by when. 

Step 2: Break it down

We all set goals in some way. We know what we want to accomplish or we identify aspects of a plan that details how we navigate from start to ultimate outcome. What are the priority areas you need to address to get to your destination or goal? We need small successes and a way to measure how close we are to our goal – or how far we are off our target. For me, I needed to think like an endurance runner, structure a training plan, fuel properly and recover. 

Step 3: Knock out barriers

There were days when I did not want to run. And going to the local grocery to get my favorite indulgence was much more appealing as I pulled up to the reservoir where I planned to do a 4-mile trail run. I sat in the car for 10 minutes contemplating my next move. (Note: It only takes three seconds to talk yourself into or out of something). As of this writing, my run was just 2 weeks away.  

So as a mental performance specialist I relied on the techniques in my “performance aid kit.” I summoned up my motivation of perseverance and commitment to overcome my laziness to train barrier.

Motivation is powerful and is fuel for sustaining behavior that moves us closer to our goals. You can motive yourself by identifying a strong value or purpose for accomplishing this goal and finding ways to gear up with the proper fuel. I did an extra 2.5 miles that day.

Example to overcome barrier: When (insert barrier), then (insert your 1% action or motivational thought that will shift you closer to your goal). When I feel like skipping a training day, I remind myself of my perseverance as I put on my shoes. (This perseverance runs deep in my veins). 
What tends to get in the way?

  • Lack of time and resources
  • Motivation diminishes
  • A shift in priorities
  • Uncertain process or lack of direction

We need to plan for these barriers so we can overcome them when they show up unexpectedly.

Step 4: Check in

Our actions start with the way we think, our beliefs and perceptions. Sometimes we can be our own biggest hinderance when it comes to accomplishing goals. For years I believed I wasn’t a runner. Each day I train – even if it’s a recovery day and I’m stretching – I check in on my mindset because there is no way I could convince myself in a few months that I am a runner and love running. How often do you need to check in – daily, weekly, monthly? Set aside time to check in on the progress you’re making so you can make the necessary 1% adjustments along the way.

You don’t accomplish your goals by chance. Go after what you want.  

Ashley Ripke is an O2X Mental Performance Specialist. She has a passion for helping others and primarily applies her knowledge and expertise in Sport and Performance Psychology to the military. Over the last 7 years, she has trained and supported thousands of soldiers (Army and Special Forces) on psychological skills that enhance resilience and performance in garrison and theatre. Her career began with the Ready and Resilient (R2) Program. She is currently the Cognitive Performance Specialist with 3rd Special Forces Group. The role psychological and physiological factors play in high risk occupations, generates a need for quality mental performance training. Recognized for her excellent service and support to various Army units, Ashley mentors others who will support in a similar capacity. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Indiana Tech, Ashley pursued her Master’s in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of Denver. Outside of working with the military, Ashley coaches young athletes in the Southern Pines area on mental skills and techniques to achieve higher levels of performance more consistently.