What's Your Word?

Ah, the New Year! Queue the obligatory reflection on last year, along with the anticipation and promise of the new one. And, of course, the New Year's Resolution! Did you make one? How's it going so far?

I've always thought that the best time to change your lifestyle is right now, and that the nature of the Human Condition makes it likely to be a challenge, regardless of what date is showing on the calendar.

But in the world of autocross there most certainly is a "season." Except for those fortunate to live in the South, winter forces most of us to take at least a few months off. That time off also gives us a chance to set new goals, take on bigger projects, and make a clean mental break with whatever we did last year.

A clean break: After years spent building his FSP-winning Mazda, Justin Barbry is moving on.

Regarding that Goal Stuff

If you're reading this, it probably means that you take autocrossing at least a wee bit more seriously than someone who just shows up a couple weekends a year to drive their car around some cones. So, have you set an autocrossing goal for the new season? Should you be setting a goal at all? There are a lot of really smart people who don't even agree on this issue. Some say you should. Others say it is a waste of time.

Goals are certainly one way to influence your perspective. But they are often too specific, and achieving them is often dependent on things we cannot control. Research shows that failing a specific goal can demotivate just as well as it can motivate.

Decisions, Decisions

No matter what your position on setting goals, there is one thing I believe: Life is all about making choices and compromise. Every step of the way, we're making decisions about what to do and how to go about doing it. Some decisions are big and obvious. But lots are tiny...even subconscious.

When I started realizing this, it became clear that small changes in perspective can have huge impacts in results over time. This perspective (some might use the term, "attitude") influences everything you'll do this year, whether you think so or not. Some examples:

  • Most of us have a limited budget. So, do you spend your money on gas and hotel to far-away events? On a new set of tires? On a driving school?
  • When you're packing and preparing for an event, do you just jump in the car and go? Do you pack any tools at all? Or do you spend hours going over the car with a fine-tooth comb and a torque wrench?
  • When you have a bad result at a big event, do you get mad? Shrug it off? Analyze the crap out of it? Forget it happened?

How do these choices impact what happens later? And what happens after that?

The Problem

It started to become clear that the effects of all these decisions are cumulative. Minor changes in perspective can have huge impacts. Your perspective will influence those small, subconscious decisions. Those, in turn, influence bigger decisions. And they all impact how you perform, deal with bad luck, or capitalize on good luck. And ultimately, they are a big part in determining whether you feel "self-actualized," which is a 50-cent word that I'm not actually qualified to use. So I interpret it more-or-less as "enjoying the heck out of myself."

Sage advice from Cap'n Jack Sparrow

So setting goals might be fine and all. But in my opinion, the only thing that ACTUALLY MATTERS is that you build some mechanism to help maintain the perspective (attitude!) you want. And it needs to be something that your subconscious can hang on to. Something simple and intuitive.

Pick A Word

If I actually knew how to do this, I'd be writing this post from my yacht in the Mediterranean, sipping a bottle of very expensive wine, with my Nobel Prize sitting on the table next to me.

But it still seems like a worthy exercise. So this year, I'm going to try an experiment on myself. Instead of a New Year's Resolution, I'm going to pick a Word.

The goal is to use my Word as the litmus test for my decisions. A gut-check on my attitude, if you will. If I'm doing something that is inconsistent with my Word, it should make me stop for a moment and ponder my choice.

I don't think it has to have some super-literal definition. And I'm guessing my interpretation of it might change over the course of the year. But it has to be something that connects you to your goals and evokes an emotional response. Want to try it with me? Here are some ideas:

  • Fun
  • Fast
  • Smooth
  • Consistent
  • Aggressive
  • Better-Prepared
  • Adaptive
  • Creative
  • Precise
  • Resourceful
  • Knowledgeable

Neal Tovsen

- The Cone Coach