There are two crucial training principles to keep in mind from the beginning of your training to the point where you are consistently achieving and elevating your goals. Reflect on your initial training, whether it was structured or not. You probably noticed progress came faster and easier. As you continued to grow, you still made progress, but at a slower pace and in smaller increments. This is the principle of diminishing return.
The greater our foundation and the faster we are, the slower and more limited our progress appears. For example, someone new to endurance running would find it easier to break 5 hours in a marathon than an elite runner trying to break 2 hours in the marathon. Higher level goals require greater patience, resolute consistency, and the drive to excel in all areas like recovery, rest, nutrition, psychological training and so on.
With this said, as we aim towards higher- and higher-level goals, our risk of setback becomes greater. As our goals are elevated and difficulty in achieving these new goals is elevated, our risk of encountering setbacks, like an injury or loss of interest, becomes greater. Referring to our previous example, the five-hour marathoner would (generally speaking) need to continue to build on his/her foundation and begin adding speedwork into training to achieve the goal. Assuming this is a healthy and driven individual, the risk of injury and mental defeat would typically be low.
Alternatively, the elite runner would need to be on point in his nutrition and hydration, acing his recovery and sleep, working daily on his psychological strategies, testing and trying the best shoes, scrupulously analyzing the race course, be meticulous in race strategy and running the tangents on race day, running likely hundreds of miles per week in training and partnering with a team of people in order to push the limits of human performance. The risk of setbacks, like injury and mental defeat, at this level is much greater.
As you continue to look ahead and elevate your goals, both short term and long term, keep these principles in mind. Do not allow yourself to be defeated if progress is not seen as fast as you thought or if you incur an injury along the way to your goals. If and when you begin to feel mental defeat, communicate this to your family, coach and training partners as this will help break you through it.
If you find yourself in a space where you have achieved high level goals and now feel somewhat less motivated or less excited to reach higher levels and set new goals, spend time reflecting on what achievements down the road would be the most meaningful to you. Drive will desist if you are not identifying your purpose and setting goals that are meaningful to you but rather attempting to impress the crowd or signing up for races out of a fear of missing out.