Interview with M.O.V.E.! >> The Act of Setting and Pursuing a Goal Changes Us – especially if it’s a big one

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Joe Maloy: “The act of setting and pursuing a goal changes us–especially if it’s a big one.”

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More than five years ago Olympic triathlete Joe Maloy said that the goal achievement method of MOVE! is not just for women. He was quoted in the book, MOVE!: How Women Can Achieve Athletic Goals At Any Age. Other men including former Olympian Willie Banks said that, too, but since I’ve worked mainly with women, the book was focused on them.

Having returned from Rio, Joe – the first American male finisher in the triathlon – answered questions about how MOVE! applies not just to training for a major athletic achievement but how it also applies after one.

C.U.: As you know, the MOVE! method of goal achievement is about preparing for goals, setting realistic goals, managing the process, assessing the outcome, and setting the next goal. What was your goal in the Olympics and how did you feel about your outcome?

J.M.: The best finish an American male had ever posted in the Olympic Triathlon was 7th, and my “outcome goal” going into the race was to finish 6th place or better. I thought that would be possible if I did an excellent job of controlling my individual process throughout the race.

Immediately after the race, I felt disappointed with my 23rd place finish, but there was a deeper pride in the way I’d prepared and competed on the day. The emotions have faded with time’s perspective, and a still-increasing pride of what the journey did for me, my family, and my community is taking its place. While I aspired for a higher finish, the result has more to do with the way I pursued, and will continue to pursue, my goals.

C.U.: Looking back, is there anything that surprised you about the experience?

J.M.: There were plenty of surprises–but my biggest surprise was the camaraderie between the athletes. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of walking into the Olympic Village dining hall, looking around, and knowing that each person is among the best in the world at his/her chosen pursuit.

Getting to the Olympics can be a lonely pursuit. Few people can relate to the focus and drive one must embrace to compete at the Olympic level. To be surrounded by people from all over the world, all of whom understood that focus and commitment, was pretty special.

C.U.: Now that the Olympics are over, are you taking a break from thinking about goals? How are you thinking about this period of time?

J.M.: It’s funny you mention that! When I returned home in late August, I felt like a dog that had just caught its tail. Can you picture that satisfied yet confused expression?

Over the previous six years, I had grown accustomed to making my decisions (where to live, who to hang out with, what to eat, etc.) with choices that aligned with competing at the Olympic Games. I had achieved the experience I had aimed for, but then life kept going. My family and friends went home–back to their lives–and I returned to my studio apartment outside of San Diego. I initially jumped back into my training routine, but my regular actions suddenly lacked direction. Instead of “going through the motions,” I recognized the opportunity to reassess the reasons behind my actions, and to decide if they were taking me in a direction that aligned with my other long-term goals.

While I was disappointed with my finish in the Olympic race, setting a goal to compete in the Olympics and then sharing that experience with my family, friends, and community was the most fulfilling experience of my life. Making the choice to pursue that goal meant I simultaneously chose against other things that are important to me–time with family and friends and longer-term financial security.

While I had no problem choosing full-time training at the age of 24 or 25, I’m a 31 now and wondering if I need to adjust my actions. I’ve grown as both an athlete and an individual over the past decade, and is continuing along my current path the best use of my current talents? What does this path mean? What are the costs? What are the benefits? What are my options? What gets me excited?

​The MOVE! method of setting goals is about envisioning a future version of yourself and then creating the daily structure that will facilitate that evolution. I’m using this time to explore my options so I can move forward with conviction.

Boston College swim coach Michael Stephens, Joe, and I:
athletic goals require thinking about other life goals too.

C.U.: The next three questions relate to thoughts for others about athletic goal achievement. Do you have any thoughts about preparing for, setting, and managing goals that others in might find helpful?

J.M.: When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I find that it helps me to make a list of things I need to do. I usually feel better about myself as soon as I give a little structure to the things I want to accomplish.

​That’s kind of how I feel about preparing for, setting, and managing goals. The
act of setting and pursuing goals doesn’t have to be this big, grand gesture. It’s a matter of acknowledging that something is important to us, and then structuring our work towards that imagined future. Whether it’s working for something 10 years or 10 hours in the future, goals empower us to take action.

C.U.: …..any thoughts about assessing goal achievement?

J.M.: Goal achievement doesn’t always look or feel the way we imagine. The act of setting and pursuing a goal changes us–especially if it’s a big one. Working towards a big goal changes us, and that new person will judge the accomplishment (or relative failure) from a new perspective than the person who originally set the goal. I think that new perspective is the true reward that comes from setting and working towards goals.

C.U.: ….any thoughts about the period following a major goal achievement?
J.M.: I think it’s important to take some time to ask yourself if you’re satisfied. Satisfaction is the enemy of achievement.

C.U. Thank you, Joe, and thanks for inspiring us! ☺

M.O.V.E!, created by Cathy Utzschneider, Ed.D., is coaching for and teaching a method to achieve priority goals in life, beginning with athletic goals.