Who are you? This may seem like a simple question, but it’s foundational to understanding what drives you and your goals. If you took time to work through the practical applications in the previous lessons, you should have a stronger sense of who you are as a person, what you feel is important, and what motivates you — key aspects of your self-concept.
We all have varying ways we identify ourselves as athletes. Take your given sport and consider what identifying statements you typically use to position yourself as someone involved with that sport.
Here are some examples that someone involved in running might use. What do you notice about these statements? For your given sport, which equivalent formulation would you typically use?
- I’m an endurance athlete.
- I’m a runner.
- I’m an ultramarathoner.
- I’m an Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) ultramarathoner.
Notice how the statements formulate slightly different self-concepts, moving from broad to narrow images the person has of themselves as an athlete. There’s nothing wrong with any of these images or identity statements — as long as they serve the athlete well.
Self-concept drives our decision-making and a healthy self-concept will help us make good decisions. But it’s important to recognize when an image we have of ourselves stops serving us in that capacity. In extreme cases, an overly rigid or narrow self-concept can lead to bad decisions that end up being detrimental to our health or long term development in the sport.
For example, if the athlete above identifies not just as an ultramarathoner but as someone who only sees themselves as an ultramarathoner if they race in the UTMB every year, then what happens the year they don’t qualify?
If a competitive athlete only sees themselves as an athlete when they finish in the top-10 at races, then what happens when age slows them down and they can no longer compete at that level?
If an athlete spends a year or more training for a big event and defines themselves as an athlete through that specific event, then what happens after they finish the event?
The point is that rigid self-concepts that lock you into a narrow way of defining who you are as an athlete can be a hindrance to growth and development. Your self-concept as an athlete should serve you as a positive motivator in your athletic pursuits. If it no longer serves that function, then you may need to reexamine your identity statements and realign them with your big “why.”
Remember, your “why” never goes away. As you evolve, age, and change as an athlete — as we all do — your “why” will remain with you. Go back to your “why” to examine your motivation for defining yourself the way you do and adjust your self-concept as needed to instill your (changing and shifting) athletic pursuits and goals with meaning and purpose.
Now that you have a good understanding of who you are and what motivates you, the next section of the course will help you set your goals.