It is nearly the end of January which means that most people have long forgotten the resolutions they made twenty-some days ago. I will admit, there is a goal I made just before January 1st that I have already failed at. I made a goal to write everyday of the year. Every single day. I have not, and while I did not give up writing, I can be sure there are people all over the world, some of you possibly even reading this blog, that have given up on a goal simply because you have failed at getting there.
Let me tell you something. Goals are meaningless. Let me repeat that.
Goals are meaningless.
Everyone can set a goal. Everyone can also fail at reaching their goal. Still many will use that failure as an excuse to not reach for that goal ever again. They will say something like it wasn’t meant to be or I tried and I just can’t do it, but the truth is that they failed to reach that goal because they lacked three specific things.
Goals are meaningless without these three things.
A Fixed Point of Measure.
The first thing you need is a fixed point that will define success or failure for your goal. By default most goals already have this. My goal to write everyday had 365 fixed points of measure and I failed at that goal somewhere around the tenth one. Setting a goal to “complete a marathon” doesn’t really give you a fixed point by which to define success, but setting a goal to “complete the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon” does. The Philly marathon is on a specific date, and if you set your goal with enough time to prepare for that race you will know for certain if you succeed or fail on that day.
Another example would be weight loss. Right now I have a goal weight of 180. Will I ever get to that goal weight? Probably. But it is much better to say, “my goal is to be at 180 by the time I run the Philly Marathon.” Anyone can have a goal to “lose some weight” but to have a specific weight you want to be at on a specific time period will make reaching that goal much better. As long as the weight loss is realistic and healthy.
It may seem obvious that to reach a goal you need the motivation to do so, but in my experience people underestimate the motivation needed. Or they lie to themselves about the level of motivation they have. When setting a goal you have to sit back and think, “how bad do I want this.” If you kind of want it, or sort of want it, or even if you really want it a lot, that may not be enough to motivate yourself to reach your goal.
There are plenty of ways to find motivation outside of yourself. Your friends or family will encourage you to do something. You may have a running partner that wakes you up at 5:00 in the morning and runs that twenty miler with you. But outside motivation will only go so far.
You have to look deep inside yourself.
You have to have deep personal reasons why you want to accomplish your goal, and why you will do anything to get to that goal. If the motivation only comes from the outside, chances are greater of failure.
And remember, there is no wrong answer here. My motivation to run a marathon may be worlds away from the reasons you want to run a marathon. That is okay. You can run the marathon for whatever reason you want to, because that reason is important to you.
This is another thing that seems obvious, but many people overlook it. Hell, A LOT of people overlook it.
Once you decide what your goal is you must make a plan to reach that goal. Brainstorm it in your head, but do not let it stay there. Break your goal down to smaller parts and create the steps needed to reach your goal. Put that plan on paper and look at it everyday. Follow the steps as closely as possible. And when you want to give up on the plan remind yourself why you are doing this, why you want this, or more importantly, why you need this.
I will go back to last years Philadelphia Marathon. When I set my goal to run a 4:30 I knew I would need a plan. I took that plan, formatted it all nice and pretty in a spreadsheet, and then printed that bitch out and hung it on the refrigerator. Right where I would see it every single day, more than once a day. I made notes on it. I crossed the days off as they passed by and crossed off workouts as I did them. Next to that plan I hung a picture of the course map. On a regular basis I ran my finger along the line marking the course. I made note of mile markers and water stops and landmarks. I made multiple plans in my head for race day.
Having that map printed out helped. Printing the plan out and physically crossing off each day was a huge help.
You need a plan. No matter what.
So it is good to make goals. It is good to set goals that are challenging and test your limits. But without A fixed point of measure, a plan, and the motivation to pull of that plan, your goal is meaningless.
Do you want a little external motivation to help you reach your goals? If so then become a Mid-Packer now.