The Driving Forces Behind Setting (and Accomplishing) Goals

Staying in a positive mindset is rule No. 1 in Smiley’s book. Photo courtesy of Janelle Smiley

As one of the world’s top endurance athletes, Janelle Smiley has set and achieved many goals over the years. From world-breaking ski traverses to personal climbing goals, she has found success by following a holistic approach.

In addition, Smiley shares her experience and knowledge with others as a mindset development coach. We talked with her recently about the process of setting goals and overcoming mental blocks. These are skills that don’t just work in the mountains, but also in everyday life.

“Setting positive goals that excite you is the best place to start,” Smiley tells ASN. “In the sense of ‘I want to achieve my optimal fitness’ vs ‘I want to lose weight.'” Our unconscious mind can’t hear negatives. If you say ‘I don’t want to fall’ your unconscious hears ‘I want to fall,’ so it’s important to keep your mind on the results you do desire, not the results you don’t desire.”

Janelle Smiley hiking up in the area of Steirerhütten during Red Bull Der Lange Weg in Tauplitz, Austria on March 21, 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Janelle Smiley.

Smiley uses a formula made up of four components – cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual – to help her set and accomplish her goals. Looking at all four of these driving forces (and not just a single element, like physical training) is what helps her break down fears and expectations, thus allowing her to tap into a positive mindset and stay motivated, she says.


“Set realistic expectations that are measurable but also challenging and push your comfort zone,” says Smiley. “Set goals that you are truly excited about achieving.”

What you constantly feed your mind will dictate your outcome. Smiley asks herself and her clients, “What are you telling yourself in the moment, and on a hourly, daily basis? Are you setting yourself up for success or are you self-destructing before you even start?”

Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool – it just needs to be trained.


“This is where you discover your triggers and how you get emotionally charged,” Smiley offers. “Find where you are blocking yourself, whether it is based in fear habits, patterns or messages from years past. All of these have to do with how you feel about yourself and how you see yourself.”

Smiley encourages her clients to take personal responsibility and recognize the emotional triggers that hold them back. The only way to change them is to change the inside environment where they are being cultivated. Exploring these emotions can be painful, but will ultimately be beneficial not only for setting goals, but for your life.

Smiley during the ascent of Großglockner during the Red Bull Der Lange Weg in Kals, Austria on March 26, 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Janelle Smiley.


“The physical aspect, tends to be the most straight forward because it has to do with our bodies.” Smiley says. “It is easy to see a change of form and to measure differences.”

Often the physical aspect is the goal – whether that’s simply to get stronger through training, or to train for something big, like climbing a mountain. Of course, the focuses here is on what we put into our bodies when it comes to nutrition and substance, and the energy that we expend. Our physical body is a vehicle and like a vehicle, it needs to be cared for to run properly.


Spirituality is so vast and can vary from person to person. One person’s driving force can just be connection to earth, while another person’s spirituality can be grounded in a religion. Whatever the source is, finding a natural flow from within gets you more centered with purpose. Having this connection will inevitably help you reach your goals.

“The spiritual aspect is where you find the motivation and the connection to all that is around you. It is where you connect to the underlying desire,” adds Smiley. “Pay attention to the different things that bring you energy and those that do the opposite.”

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