Mike's Mailbag: Renewing Motivation after Reaching a Goal

Mike's Mailbag: Renewing Motivation after Reaching a Goal

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, July 16, 2018

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com.


Dear Mike,

I am a 17-year-old swimmer who has been swimming since I was 7 years old.

I no longer have the motivation to go to practice. I still love swimming but having to go to a two-hour practice and swim fast doesn't seem fun anymore. I'm not sure what to do. I want to take a break, but I can't do that because I have to go to meets so I have new times for colleges to look at. Although I can't get new times when I keep missing practice because of the lack of motivation.

Could the lack of motivation be because I finally reached one of my biggest goals last year?

How do I get that motivation back?

I have no idea what to do, please help me.


Unmotivated Swimmer


Hey Unmotivated Swimmer,

Reaching a goal is often the best feeling in sports. (Or in life.) But one of the least-talked about aspects of reaching a goal is the “after-life” of goal achievement: Once that goal has been met, where does one go from there?

My freshman year in college, my “big goal” was to break four minutes in the 400 IM. Four minutes was my personal Mount Everest, and the entire season, morning and night, I climbed and climbed. By season’s end, I made it. I reached the personal peak. I broke four minutes.

You’d think from there, I’d set sights on a new peak, a new climb, and a new mountain.

Only, the following year, I grew tired of the climb. I stopped ascending. Didn’t even want to climb. I just sort of slid back down that mountain. I went in reverse.

Though I didn’t even realize it until I was descending, I was not only physically exhausted from that season-long climb, but I was also emotionally exhausted. Sophomore year, I remember thinking, “You mean I have to do an entire season all over again?” I felt severely, utterly, hopelessly unmotivated.

Sounds like you feel the same way. You climbed your personal Everest. Now, it’s hard to want to climb again. It’s hard to get back on the trail, especially now that you’re finally enjoying the view from the top.

My advice? Enjoy that view. Take time to sit and savor your recent accomplishment. In sports, that “view” is why we struggle season after season. We hope that, one day, we can reach the peak.

Give yourself time, Unmotivated Swimmer. I leapt back into the water too soon and subsequently lost all motivation to keep going. It’s like ascending the mountain only to enjoy the view for two seconds.

Take a moment. A few weeks. A month. Longer. Of course, sometimes in any journey, you must force it or risk being stagnant. Sometimes, you must get out of bed and head to practice, even if that motivation is fleeting. We all feel that, time to time.

But colleges would rather have a refreshed, motivated swimmer over a burned-out, unmotivated freshman. Even if you’re a little out-of-shape. Get away from the pool. Go jog. Play basketball. Hike.

And, briefly, enjoy that view.

Because there are always mountains to climb. And while you’re spending time looking, you may even notice another, bigger mountain looming in the distance — one that, once you catch your breath, looks incredibly fun to climb.


If you have a question you’d like answered online or inside the next issue of Splash Magazine, email Mike at swimmingstories@gmail.com.



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