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Engagement & Performance

Self-selected goal motivation, is it really scientific?

What kind of goal should we be setting to remain motivated? BI WORLDWIDE has been employing best practice with regards to goal setting for its clients with great success for over 30 years, enabling companies to motivate their employees and achieve the best they possibly can.

According to behavioural economics author Bob Proctor, we should “set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time.” To demonstrate the self-selected goal theory in practise, we interviewed BI WORLDWIDE’s client services executive Sarah, 23, who had set herself a goal to participate in a Tough Mudder® event, alongside seven of her friends. For those that may be unaware of what Tough Mudder® is, it is a highly active, 12 mile run and assault course, challenging each participant’s overall fitness and physical ability.

We asked Sarah a number of questions to find out how it felt to work towards achieving her incredibly challenging, self-selected goal.

Q & A

1. What made you sign up for Tough Mudder®?

I needed a goal, something challenging to better focus my fitness and training. My friends and I all wanted to do something together that would motivate our fitness. All my friends compete in various fitness events and we wanted something to do as a team.

2. What did you hope to achieve?

We all wanted to finish together. The statistics for participants completing the course is surprisingly low, so we were all determined to make sure we completed the course.

3. What training did you do and how often?

I trained four times a week, which is normal for me, two outdoor circuit classes, and 1-2 sessions in the gym.

4. What kept you motivated?

We wanted to win the orange headband as it gives you special access for the next year. We also wanted to finish as a team, so we all motivated each other.

5. Do you have any advice for someone doing it next time?

DO MORE RUNNING! I wasn’t prepared for the amount of hills in the 12 mile course, so I would suggest doing hill work and distance running. I would also suggest running while wet and muddy, as that made a huge difference to the effort needed to complete. It’s also important to get into the right frame of mind as lots of competitors were not prepared and failed at each obstacle as they were afraid or not committed.

6. What do you wish you had taken/had known in advance?

I wish I had taken more water, as it was a hot day. I also wish I had completed more hill training.

7. What was the best and worst thing of participating?

The atmosphere was the best thing – everyone was cheering and supporting us. The comradery was brilliant and so much fun.  We saw a bride and groom in their wedding outfits that were racing ahead together who were getting married that afternoon! The two 118 men finished their first 12 mile lap and then went round again! These were some unbelievable competitors. My favourite thing was the obstacles.

The worst thing was my hip went at about nine miles, so the last three miles were a struggle, but my team kept me going!

8. Would you do it again?

HELL YEAH! We have already signed up for next year! We want to run it quicker, train harder and wear our orange bandanas with pride. We can’t wait to do that special slide that only previous completers of Tough Mudders® can do!

9. Sarah’s final thought

Everyone should try an event like this – it’s a challenge and it’s an achievement, I am still on a high from the experience. 

Next year I will train harder, but this was the best first event I could ever have done! Absolutely loved it!

Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time.

  • Bob Proctor
  • Behavioural Economics author

True motivation is always goal led and the ultimate, most rewarding goal is one we set ourselves.

Sarah and her friends set their own goal, they worked together as they all wanted to achieve it, and they did, they excelled. They are all still buzzing from the experience and have planned to do better next year. Behavioural economics tells us that if running in Tough Mudder® had been forced upon the group, their buy-in, engagement, and plan of attack wouldn’t have been their own. There would have been minimal passion, no desire to win and the outcome wouldn’t have been as rewarding.

Setting and working towards a self-selected goal is scientifically proven to drive engagement and over performance.  BI WORLDWIDE can prove it.

More info…

Tough Mudder® arrived in the UK in May 2012:

An update on Tough Mudder® 12th July 2014

Over 3,000 people have a Tough Mudder® tattoo!

Here is some more information about the obstacle course industry in the UK: and here

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