It’s that time of year again – where everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions, things to improve upon, change or become better in the new year. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, however, I am a big fan of goals – of dedicated hard work day after day, to work towards a common objective. You want to know my favorite part about goals? They don’t have to happen once a year!
But now that we’re on the topic, how do we go about setting goals? In the next paragraphs, I’ll help you break down goal-setting into bite-sized, digestible chunks, so you can not only set a new goal, but have a high likelihood of achieving it.
Step 1: Choose the BIG goal – the scarier the better
Step 1 can be the hardest part! Choosing a goal is a bit like a goldilocks challenge – we are searching for something that isn’t too big that it becomes impossible, but isn’t too small that it’s futile. You are searching for a goals that’s just right – that challenges you, but doesn’t break you. It’s ok to choose a big scary goal (even years away) that might seem impossible to accomplish immediately – setting smaller, sub goals can help get you there.
Step 2: Identify what you need to do to accomplish your goal.
When making my goal, I usually start with my weakness, something I want to improve upon. If I want to improve running speed, I choose a race that’s flatter and faster – out of my comfort zone and then decide the type of training I need to do get faster, so I show up on race day prepared. I do workouts with friends that are fast and can push me, I hire a coach that is qualified, and I do my best to stick to a recovery plan to keep me injury free throughout the process. Of course, this was just an example ⬆️, but hopefully gives you an idea of the process.
Step 3: Break down your goal into smaller blocks – actionable short term goals.
This step is really important for that BIG, SCARY goal that you chose – the one that’s years down the road. If it’s a big race you want to win, then choose smaller races in the season or years leading up to it – races that will prepare you similarly. If it’s a time you are going after on a certain race or route, break down your season into blocks (months) where each month has a theme, specific to the development of certain weaknesses or strengths (speed block vs climbing focused block for example). Then break down those month blocks into weeks, filled with key workouts and rest. Before you know it, you have many, small goals you can start to work toward, which can help develop confidence, a sense of accomplishment – and maybe most importantly – keep you present in the moment.
Step 4: Sticking with the goal – the daily grind.
Sticking with a goal can be difficult. The daily grind isn’t glamorous and you can lose motivation. But that’s where the magic happens and the daily grind is what allows you to turn you goal into reality. It’s the daily practices you use to avoid detours or roadblocks to yourself on the right path. Let’s take an example: I have a goal to get stronger over the winter. I’ve hired a strength coach, joined a gym and have workouts planned 3 days per week, with bimonthly checkins with my coach. I’ve accomplished steps #1-3. But how do I stick to my plan of lifting 3 days a week when on week #2 of my plan, I’m feeling sore, tired and unmotivated to go? A couple things I would do: get a workout buddy to go with me to the gym, prioritize stretching/recovery so my body doesn’t feel as beat up. Step #4 is all about eliminating distractions or barriers that get in the way of your daily grind to your goal.
Step 5: Executing a goal
Now, it might seem a bit unfair that all our hard work can come down to one day – what if we get sick, or race conditions aren’t ideal or your stomach turns mid way through the race. Yes, anything can happen on race day, but the whole point of goal setting and working towards goals is to practice being in the moment, controlling what you can control and letting go of what you can’t. Sometimes immediate failure or falling short of a goal, can set you up for success later, or teach you something valuable to address in the future. The benefits of goal setting surpass the actual achievement of it – it’s more about the process of setting a goal and working towards it.
If you’d like more discussion around goal setting, the benefits of it both in running and life in general, check out the latest episode of Trail Society, where Corrine Malcolm, Keely Henninger, and I discuss it at length. You can also check out the latest episode of The Ultra Running Guys, where I discuss how I personally set goals.
Hope you enjoy this article and the podcasts. Now let’s set some goals for 2022!