On Setting Goals

We’ve arrived at the end of the fall race season.  I love this time of year.  Not only are the temps cooler, making it more enjoyable to run again, but I love reflecting on the progress I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned this year. I also love to dream about what the coming year will hold.  Even though the change of the year is a somewhat trivial mark, it’s a great opportunity to reflect, readjust, and refocus.  Now is the time to start thinking about what your 2019 running might hold.

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. -Zig Ziglar

We’re all familiar with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound) goals, and this is a good framework for goal setting, both at work and personally. Here is a new twist on the acronym “SMART”.

S is for setting your big goals first.  Perhaps it’s a BQ, finishing an ultra, or just PRing your next 5k.  Or it could be as simple as running for the pure joy of it.    I always enjoy having a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG from Jim Collin’s book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”).  A BHAG is a big stretch, and in fact, many would probably even question its plausibility. This is where my self-doubt creeps in and I get into trouble!  Take the BHAG and break it down into smaller milestones that help you focus on what you need to do that day, week, and/or month in order to achieve your running goal.

M is for meaningful.  It’s hard to find motivation to achieve them, particularly when achieving them requires some grit – like running so often does.  Sure, it’s true that working toward goals builds character.  This is probably why we runners keep doing it.  Without a goal, what’s the point in slogging through daily grind? Why all those 5 am runs in the rain and cold?  Stay motivated by keeping the big picture in mind.  Keep the goals front and center.  I love creating vision boards – and I have one for my running goals too. A vision board can help you really imagine what the future will be like and keep it top of mind.  Place it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

A is for authentic. Want to qualify for Boston just because all of your friends are doing it?  That’s all well and good, but only if it’s something you genuinely want as well.  Be sure you understand the why behind your goals.   With the why in mind, seeing progress can be addicting and you’ll be more likely to sustain the flow.

R is for revisit.  It’s important to revisit your goals periodically.  I don’t suggest being flaky and constantly changing them, but sometimes your goal must be adjusted.  Have an injury?  Does your family need more of your attention?  Stressful project at work?  Maybe your goals need to be changed or ditched all together.   When I faced an injury this fall, I scrapped my fall race goals and instead focused on overall strength and body composition. I know I’ll run a marathon again, but I’m keeping my long-term goals and well-being in mind instead of jeopardizing them for short-term wins.

T is for time bound.  Or not.  While I agree with this in general and am a proponent for putting a stake in the ground, sometimes goals are so big that they cannot be achieved in the desired timeframe. If you don’t hit your goal in the desired timeframe, it doesn’t mean the goal was unworthy.  Nor does it mean you are a failure.   Many of us would love to BQ, and just because it doesn’t happen at your next race, doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all.  If you are disciplined and putting in the work each day, you are on the right track and your goals will become reality one day.

Happy goal setting!

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