It’s almost January, so, the “world” has been reminding me that this is a time to set new goals and tune our visions… and that has me wanting to lay out a few reminders on goals. Most important, is a reminder that when you set a goal, the success is not in reaching the exact target, it is in working as you attempt to reach the goal! Having a dream does not make a reality, and writing down “I will lose 20 pounds” or “I will gain 10 Watts / 10” per mile etc” or “I will eat 5 servings of veggies every day” sure does not mean those things will happen. However, they are absolutely fantastic stimulants.
That’s the key with goals, they stimulate you to look beyond and to move in a direction. They are the opposite of status quo… but again, they don’t hold that position due your reaching a specific target… they hold that position due to you doing the work, walking the walk, living the process to attempt to reach the goal.
As a random example, say you set a goal of losing 10# from Jan 1 – April 1. That goal of a 10# loss will lead you to see a slow reduction in weight. You will make better food choices, you will keep training well, you will keep looking for ways to stay on track. If on April 1 you only lost 8.5#, that’s a lot of positive motion. Sure, it’s not the exact outcome you dreamed up, but it’s absolutely a great chunk of progress.
So that’s point one here – setting goals is about creating and sustaining motion… not about achievement.
This moves into the second point I wanted to touch on. Not reaching a goal is not failure, it’s an invitation to continue. Sticking to that 10# weight loss goal, say you lose the 8.5# I noted above… Should you view that as a failure and an indication that what you have done the last few months did not work? No! What you did yielded great progress. Now you have a new point in time from which you can consider options. How can I lose the next 1.5#? Most likely you keep doing the things that got you down those 8.5… But you may also be able to (after those months of work) look back and see other areas that could really help you make further gains.
And that is where goals can get us stuck.
If we don’t do just what we aimed for, too often we shift to seeing that experience as a failure, and we lose momentum, when in reality, we need to see what worked, and use the changes we have made as a jumping off point, and a catalyst for further positive changes.
And that, is point two here – chasing goals is about growth, seeking, and focusing your passion to seek new levels in any endeavor you take on. It’s about how and what you do. Chasing goals is about action!
Because of this, you literally can-not fail when you set a goal. Sure, you may not end up in the exact spot you originally envisioned when you set the goal, but if your focus was on the process and on taking steps towards that goal, you can only grow!
In terms of actually setting goals, I used to feel people really needed a structured and sequential approach. Over time I found that strategy became to concrete and to outcome focused – it killed the creativity and passion that really is the big, important aspect of goal setting. What seems to work better, is staying ready with the Onenote App on your phone, or a little notebook… As you train and as you think of races or events you want to tackle this year, consider areas that may help you most as you take on those races. Write those down so you can reflect back on them. Now, boil them down to the 2-3 that feel the most directly related to your coming year. On your computer/phone (or approximate with a pen and paper), write the goal in size 12 font, then below it, write a list of 5-6 items that are action based – things you can do daily/weekly/monthly that will directly impact the odds of reaching those goals. Write these in size 14-16 font. Why? It’s the action that’s important! You will focus on the bigger font, and as a result, when you review this “goal” sheet, you will focus on the actions! This could be on your phone, it could be on paper you keep in your wallet or a sticky note attached to your fridge – the key point is that it’s someplace you will see it and be reminded of the action points!
Because this is less formal the working through a big long process, you can stay flexible, and adapt as you gain information. You’re not the same you a month from now, and if you have been working towards a goal, you probably have learned some key things that cause you to lose traction as you go, and things that have really ignited your growth. Can you harness that steadily increasing stream of knowledge to tune your goal? Absolutely you can! Harnessing a simple goal setting approach lets you create action and stay adaptable, and that is vital to you continuously growing.
Give it a shot. It’s amazing how this simple approach can shift your view of goals, and, can help you make good moves forward.