Given the uncertainties created by the coronavirus, and how it has affected the racing season, finding motivation has become crucial for the world’s top riders. In the Bunch “sat down” with Willie Smit, 27, at his home in Andorra to talk goals and how the Burgos BH rider has kept himself busy.
In the Bunch: How important is goalsetting and especially during these times?
Willie Smit: Goals are one of the few things that keep not just athletes but most people on track and motivated. It’s almost the same as trying to stay in routine, which goes hand-in-hand with consistency. Most of the time with consistency comes success.
I believe the lockdown has allowed bad habits to surface in most of us and getting back on track is not always easy, so setting goals creates the steppingstones to where you want to go in your life. Without a goal there’s normally no purpose, and without purpose why do we live?
ITB: How would one go about setting goals? Is there a process involved?
WS: Most of the time it requires taking a step back, hitting the pause button and asking yourself what it is you want in life. If you can be completely honest with yourself the correct answer, or one that leads you to your ultimate desire, should surface.
The process involves getting to know yourself better and not trying to fight things that end up on your road. An example is an athlete breaking their collarbone. The challenges that come along with it are fighting the pain and perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder. As an athlete it is part of your job to work through things like training through pain, sleepless nights and finding the will to continue working hard.
ITB: Is there a hierarchy involved when it comes to setting goals?
WS: This depends on who you are as a person. In my case, my wife comes first and then my career. At times there need to be compromise but I’m fortunate enough to have a partner who has sacrificed a lot for my career. I think these are the cornerstones of setting goals – obviously depending on where you are in life. The only advice I truly have is that those targets shouldn’t be linked to materialistic things because they never bring real joy.
ITB: What are the pros and cons to setting objectives?
WS: In my opinion it is pretty obvious. Without goals there is no vision, purpose or success. I’ve also found that we underestimate the power of motivation, which goals help to build. Without motivation you’ll be doing most things in life on a very average basis, and average is simply not good enough. The only downside I see is that sometimes we become so fixated on our goals that we’re willing to bash anything that comes in the way, which can take you down a dangerous road. Good judgement will be needed here.
ITB: How often should you evaluate your goals?
WS: Most of the time you’ll lose motivation with certain goals. That is the first sign that perhaps a step back is needed to assess and ask questions. As you follow through with some targets, they might not be in line with your vision and values and that’s why re-evaluation might be needed.
ITB: How has setting goals helped you personally? Has it increased your motivation and inspired you?
WS: It’s a great starting point, but willpower and partly the fear of failure have driven me greatly. There’s nothing wrong with failure because that means you’re trying, but like many mentors have repeatedly told me: “Trying is not good enough”. Most of us just need to get our attitude right (definitely not trying to sound like an extremist). We are capable of much more than we think and I’ve seen this on many occasions.
ITB: Does it put pressure on you? How do you overcome this pressure?
WS: It sounds simple but yes and no. Pressure is overcome through acceptance and belief in what you’re doing. There are very few jobs that are not accompanied by pressure. Learn to deal with it and don’t try to avoid it, because it is inevitable. A big thing in overcoming pressure is having confidence – that is key.
ITB: How have you kept yourself busy during these times?
WS: I’ve set some challenges like raising funds through the Willie Smit Foundation and organising a sanctioned event called the Smurfy 500, which is South Africa’s longest Gran Fondo. It will be held in Pretoria on December 12. The event will raise funds for the development of riders, who will be selected by us and Cycling SA.
I’ve also done virtual indoor rides like an Everesting and a 1 000km ride on Zwift. These were all challenges I set out, but not goals. My goals are mostly based on my racing schedule and at that time there was no indication when racing would resume.
ITB: Looking ahead, what are your goals?
WS: It’s getting in the best shape possible for October’s Vuelta a Espana and making a difference in the development of riders in South Africa through my foundation, which is something I’m incredibly passionate about.
ITB: What advice do you have for fellow riders?
WS: Setting unrealistic goals can be a recipe for disaster, so set realistic ones which you can use as steppingstones to jump from the success of one target to another. Also, surround yourself with positive people. This will make achieving those objectives much easier as opposed to having people in your life who plant doubt in your mind.