Are you a goal-setter, go-with-the-flow-er, or something in between? With so much social media about goals loading up on December 31, Jan 1, Jan 2 (especially in the running community when so much of what we do is chase goals), it’s easy to feel like you’re behind. It’s ok, it’s not too late, the year is not a wash. There is no timeline on setting personal goals. Sure, it’s nice to start the year fresh, with some clear direction and intention, it feels good, we like it. But goal-setting can feel big and overwhelming, and so we get busy with the doing, without stepping back for some perspective on where we’re heading. (and by we, I for sure mean me… and maybe you too)
First, why should you bother? I’d simply say intention. Setting goals gives us focus and builds discipline, so rather than moving through life because the daily routine carries us, we stay oriented in a direction toward the things that we really want. Studies show that goal setters are goal achievers and people who write down their goals have more success in getting where they want to go. Further, sharing your goals with someone who you respect and who’s opinion you value, brings accountability and increases your likelihood of following through. Tell someone to whom you would hate to have to say, “I haven’t actually started.” Or, “I didn’t get very far.” Or, “I gave up.”
With run coaching, the athlete’s goals set the direction for training. We talk about goals vs. where they are today, then devise a training plan that sets them on the path and leads them to achieving their goals. We get specific and realistic as to near and long term goals, which in running are not always time based. Running goals can also be focused on a level of fitness, achieving consistency, completing a new distance, running or finishing strong, having a positive mindset, or something else entirely.
So, where should you begin? Here is my simple formula for goal setting:
- What do you want? (the goal)
- Why do you want it? (what value is it to you)
- How will you get there? (the plan)
- Bonus: dare to set a goal that scares you, even just a little
First consider what you want to achieve, and then commit to it. I like to organize my goals into categories: family, health & fitness, social, faith, financial, and business. Then it’s a basic brainstorming exercise of what do I want for this year, in each aspect of my life. Be as specific as possible. If you want to go for SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals, all the better.
Next, why is the goal important? This gets at your motivation and the value you associate with achieving the goal. This is the first year I have written this down about each of my goals. It helped me see my goals in a new light and I felt more connected to why I’m motivated to pursue the goal. And, if I didn’t like the answer to “why do I want it”, I took it off the list. For example – one of my goals is to declutter my house, first the dining room (to be converted to my new office, stay tuned for before/after), then the basement storage. Specifically, the goal is to get rid of “stuff” around the house that serves no purpose (decorative things that I no longer like) and especially stuff that’s in boxes in our basement. Why? Space affects my mood, a decluttered house makes our household “run” easily (i.e. it’s functional, we can find things), and a clean space lowers my stress. Now that I work at home I’m here a LOT, so let’s make it nice. These are all good motivators for me to continue with project de-clutter.
Finally, how will you get there? This is the plan, what will you DO that will lead you to the goal.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This quote that I love, came from French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known for his short novella, The Little Prince. I occasionally would pull this quote out in business meetings when my own internal alarm would go off, signaling to me that we had officially gone on too long discussing ideas, options or theories, without any mention of a plan of action. Admittedly I am a doer, an executor, a goal-oriented planner, the one you come to for GSD (get s*** done). My work colleagues and I understood this about each other, that we needed the ideas and goals as much as the strategies and plans to get there. We counted on each other for our strengths and when we all played our part, it worked.
So the goal needs a plan which includes the steps you must take to realize your goal. The plan can be as simple as a bulleted list of things you will do, that will move you toward the goal. Bonus points if you put a timeline on it. For project de-clutter, first it’s the dining room (which is being converted to my new office…. stay tuned for the before/after), then the basement storage, and on from there.
Finally – dare to set a goal that scares you. The more a goal scares you, the greater the impact it will have on your life. Some big scary goals that I have set in my life are: climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, retire at 50, qualify and run Boston. Each of these took a long time to achieve, thoughtful planning, and pushed me to the edge of my capabilities. This type of goal will require more focus, discipline and creative thinking than you ever thought possible. Best of all, you will be amazed at what you discover you are capable of in the pursuit of the big scary goal.
To pull it all together, I’ll share one of my top health & fitness goals this year: a complete recovery from ankle surgery, full mobility and strength, cleared to return to running. Why is it important to me? All of this is a precursor to my running goals and I consider this the first and most important milestone. How will I get there? Daily stretching and rehab, physical therapy, listening to my body and taking a measured return to activity.
Bringing it back to running, a few words on my running goals. They feel a little different this year, mainly because I’m holding onto them loosely given where I’m starting out, fresh off of ankle surgery on Dec 2nd. So, the race calendar is pretty fluid, and some of my running goals for this year are leading toward bigger goals in 2023. Here are my personal running goals for 2022:
- Return to running pain-free, build strength and fitness. Make strength training a more intentional focus. Consistency in training, avoid injury, and gratitude for every. single. run.
- Naperville Sprint Triathlon in August with my husband. With all the swimming and biking I’ve been doing during the ankle injury, I thought I could keep it up as cross training and hop in this race for fun. And I love racing with Tim!
- Run the London Marathon in the fall. This is a part of a bigger goal to run all of the World Marathon Majors: Chicago (2017), Boston (2018), London, Berlin, Tokyo and New York. London is a ballot and from what I’ve read, odds are not great that I’ll get in (1 in 26 people got in, in 2020!). So if I do, I’ll train in hopes of being able to run it (assuming ankle and body cooperate) and approaching it to simply soak up the experience. Realistically it’s not enough time to be in shape to “race” which is what I always tend to do, meaning if I can’t go for a PR I keep training til I’m ready. If I don’t get into London, I’ll either find another marathon (maybe New York) or train for a fall half, all depending how my comeback is going!
- Be a pacer at a local fall half marathon. I’ve never been a pacer before but lately I’ve been thinking I’d like to do it! Depending on fall marathon plans, I’d love to pace a group for our local fall half and bring those folks in just under 2:00!
- Get some running friends & training partners! I have trained almost exclusively alone for the past six years because of my demanding work schedule and limited flexibility. (i.e. 5 am running in the dark, etc). I look forward to getting more connected into the local running community and starting to spend some of my time running with other people.
- Train to go for a marathon PR in 2023. Between covid and injuries, there are a couple races that I have entered and deferred or missed, some more than once. Houston (Jan ’23) and/or Eugene (May ’23), I’m comin’ for ya!
- Not setting any time goals for this year. 2022 is a building year. I have recently set my sights on a sub 3:30 marathon. It’s a big leap from 3:42, but with a solid build up I think I have it in me and I’m certainly going to try!
The plans behind all of these goals pretty much boil down to a solid recovery, safe return to running, and training smart. I’m certainly committed to that and highly motivated because of my love of the sport, the opportunity to train and push myself, & the running community.
Chasing goals requires discipline, sacrifice, focus, and effort, and gives you long term vision. More simply, chasing goals is about making the most of life. Life is short. Do the thing.
What are your goals for this year?