How to set your New Year’s climbing goals for 2024
Today we’re exploring how to hit our 2024 New Year’s goals by exploring how our values affect our motivation.
When you climb and train, the success of your session usually comes down to how motivated you’re feeling on any given day. On some days, you wake up feeling super psyched and will have a great session regardless of the conditions and the outcome. And on some days… you really don’t. This blog will explore some strategies to help you feel motivated, and satisfied with your training, when it comes to working towards your climbing goals.
Identifying your climbing values can be an important step in feeling like you’re making progress with your training, as this should shape and inform your 2024 goal setting, making the goals you set relevant, meaningful and specific. As with all aspects of training, taking the time to reflect on your values (and using this to inform your training) might not appeal to everyone. It might not feel as rewarding as completing that extra core session at the climbing gym. However, take some time to consider the phrases below. If this is something that you can relate to, then reflecting on your values could be of great benefit to your performance and your enjoyment of climbing/training because of the positive impact that it could have on your motivation.
- You have a lack of consistency with your training.
- You tend to overthink your climbing, training and progress
- You are consistently unsatisfied with your progress.
- You lack direction with your goal setting.
Do these sentiments ring true? If so, why? For a better understanding let’s take a very quick look at the Self-Determination Theory of Motivation, based on work by researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan in the 70s and 80s. The Self-Determination Theory argues that motivation is determined by three psychological factors. These are:
- Autonomy – Defined as feeling like you have a choice/control over your own behaviours and actions and that the choices you make are self-driven.
- Competence – Defined as self-perceived mastery and a feeling that you are capable in a given activity/context.
- Relatedness – Defined as the desire to feel connected with others and to have a sense of belonging.
The theorists suggested that if a person is able to satisfy all three of these psychological needs when working on a task, this will improve their motivation. In 1985, Deci and Ryan proposed that motivation is on a continuum, ranging from intrinsic to extrinsic, suggesting that intrinsic motivation is driven by oneself (the motivation comes from within) and extrinsic motivation is driven by others. They added that intrinsic motivation is likely tied into an individual’s personal values or belief systems, whereas extrinsic motivation is based on the values or belief systems of other people. Below is an example of intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, within a climbing context.
1. Intrinsic Motivation
Rowan is psyched to climb The Nose because it’s bold and adventurous.
2. Extrinsic Motivation
Robin is psyched to climb The Nose because their friend said they should.
In the first example, Rowan is a really keen trad climber who loves big routes in wild, exposed positions. They find that they thrive in this climbing environment and that is why they have set themself this goal.
In the second example, Robin is also a keen trad climber, but loves single-pitch climbing on routes that are well-within their comfort zone. Robin has spoken to their friend Rowan, who recently climbed the Nose, and couldn’t recommend the route highly enough. Robin has set themself the goal of climbing The Nose because Rowan had really enjoyed it and said it was an amazing experience.
However, Deci and Ryan argue that there is another important distinction that influences motivation and this is the difference between ‘Autonomous’ motivation and ‘Controlled’ motivation. ‘Autonomous’ motivation is described as when a person’s actions and behaviours are self-regulated or initiated independently, whereas ‘Controlled’ motivation is described as when a person’s actions and behaviours are influenced by somebody else, in an attempt to seek approval or avoid embarrassment/guilt. Let’s use Robin as an example.
Psyched to climb The Nose because their friend said they should.
Robin hears Rowan’s story, looks up the route in the guide and immediately decides to adjust their training to prepare for an attempt in the New Year.
Robin thinks the route sounds scary and too hard, but doesn’t want to look like a poor trad climber in the eyes of their friend and plans to try it anyway in the New Year.
Using these two examples, you can see how the 3 psychological principles of Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness are/are not being met and how this could have an impact on Robin’s motivation to climb The Nose. Deci and Ryan suggest that these 3 psychological needs can be met by taking the time to consciously reflect on your values when goal setting, as demonstrated below.
If your training reflects your values, you will be intrinsically motivated to complete the training. You want to train, because this is reflective of what is important to you.
By having goals that are reflective of your values you are more likely to try harder in your training and with consistency, meaning that you’re more likely to experience that feeling of competency. Because your goals are reflective of your climbing values, your perceptions of success will not just depend on the outcome (success or failure!), but will be tied into the process of pursuing a goal.
If your goals reflect your values this may encourage you to build better relationships with your peers, developing trust and a supportive social network. This could lead to a deeper, more open level of communication, which would empower you in asking the right questions and seeking out useful information.
The Self-Concordance Model
The Self-Concordance model was later developed by Ken Sheldon and Andrew Elliott and was used to support research into the idea that an individual will more effectively pursue their goals when these goals are in alignment with that person’s own core belief system. The model has been able to show that when goal setting reflects what truly matters to you (your core values/beliefs), the sense of achievement and/or satisfaction upon attaining the goal is greater. Reflective goal setting can have a positive impact on wellbeing, lead to a greater number of positive experiences (and, conversely, less negative experiences) and mean that willpower, effort and motivation can be sustained for longer.
“Not all personal goals are personal.” – Sheldon & Elliot, 1998
But what are values?
Your values represent what is important to you.Values can be related to climbing, but they usually also reflect what is important to you in a wider sense. It is often these values that connect us to other people within the climbing community, because of your shared interests and core beliefs. In climbing, values could be things like: ‘challenge’, ‘experience’ and ‘movement’, however, these values can differ greatly depending on the context. For example, your work values may be completely different to your climbing values and your climbing values may differ, depending on the season. Similarly, as you learn and grow as a climber, your values will evolve, so it’s useful to frequently check in with your values to make sure that your goals are still in alignment with them. To help develop an understanding of your core climbing values, take some time to reflect on your climbing journey thus far (the highs, the lows, the lessons learnt…) and try to answer the following questions:
- What is it about climbing that motivates and inspires you?
- What aspects of climbing are most important to you?
Once you have taken the time to take a look back at your climbing and consider these questions, try to make a list of 10-15 values. Some examples have been provided in the graphic below, but don’t be afraid to select words that hold personal meaning to you.
Once you have constructed your list, attempt the following two tasks:
- Put a star next to the 5 that stand out to you. Try to reflect on how they relate to your climbing philosophy (fundamental truths about yourself, your relationship to climbing and the climbing community).
- Circle the 3 values that are most important to you.
Now that you have considered your climbing values, it’s important that these are successfully reflected in your climbing goals. You can then select relevant and appropriate sessions that will support you in working towards your goals. For example, if ‘movement’ is one of your core values, this could tie in with the goal of increasing lower body flexibility. The value and goal are in agreement here because being flexible will facilitate you in moving efficiently and fluidly on the wall. Including sessions such as horse squat progressions will help improve hip mobility, bringing concordance to your values and goals.
Taking into consideration the 3 values that you selected earlier, now it’s time to think about setting and/or adjusting your goals.
Goal Setting Task
- Pick and write down 1 of your goals OR one of the climbing or training sessions that you frequently complete.
- Consider, is this reflective of your values? If not, how could you adapt the goal so that it is in alignment with your core beliefs about climbing, as shown in the example above? Try re-writing your goal so that the two are in agreement.
Finding this balance can be difficult and it’s important to be honest with yourself and to make sure that both your values and goals are self-derived. As you venture into 2024 and continue on your life journey, you will likely encounter many changes, whether pertaining to work, family or lifestyle. All of these factors are significant and will have a knock-on effect on your climbing values, so you must make sure that you frequently assess your beliefs about climbing to make sure that your values and goals are aligned. A change in your work circumstances may mean that a goal you set previously is no longer appropriate at that time, because your values have shifted. Being mindful of this shift will mean that you’re able to set new goals that work for you, within a given context or parameter. Consequently, this will help you to sustain your motivation and feel satisfied with your training, and your achievements, when a goal has been achieved.
Recommended further reading:
Deci & Ryan. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2000_DeciRyan_PIWhatWhy.pdf
Sheldon & Elliot. (1999) Self Concordance Model https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/1999_SheldonElliot.pdf
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