It’s that time of year again! Love it or hate it, we all think and talk about setting goals in January. (Some of us even write a blog post about them, yikes!) Looking back at 2023, I achieved some of my goals, and didn’t achieve others. But there is one goal that helped me better understand how to be successful with setting goals.
Specifically, I set a goal to run 350 miles in 2023. It was on my 102nd run of the year that I finally hit that goal. And on that run, I started to reflect on what I learned as a result of setting and achieving that goal. Below are the thoughts that came to my mind that I hope you’ll find helpful as you think about setting, and achieving, your goals for 2024.
Set a big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG)
Your goal should be both challenging yet simple to remember. Give yourself a goal that is motivating. And don’t dilute your focus with too many goals.
Set up and focus more on the system than the goal
As James Clear says, both winners and losers have goals. Winners are those that set up a system to achieve their goal. For me it was a specific morning routine that started at 5:30 am (with an allowance for one hit of the snooze button).
Fall in love with the process
Or at least part of the process. I don’t particularly enjoy running. But I love, love, love being out in the woods early in the morning by myself. I love it in the winter when the world is silent except for your breath and footsteps; in the summer before the day gets hot; in the fall when the leaves are changing.
There really is no soft way to say it. Most goals take a ton of hard work to achieve. Embrace the grind. Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
You won’t be your best every day, but do what you can
Some days I ran slow, some days I only ran 2 miles instead of the 3.5 I wanted to. But little by little do what you can to chip away at that goal and keep with the process you set up.
You will “fall off the horse”
And when you do, expect it to be hard to get started again. But start again anyway. Every now and then I’d go a few weeks without running for whatever reason. That first time back was painful. And slow. And usually short. But it was a start. And it got less painful, faster, and longer each run after that until I was back up to my normal pace and distance.
There will be bears on the trail. Expect them, plan for them, and stay strong when they show up
There is a lot to be afraid of when trying to reach a new goal. Some things you can anticipate being scary, others you have no idea you should be scared about them. Either way, know there will be setbacks and challenges, but keep moving forward anyway.
There will be injuries
Similar to external challenges (bears), there will be internal ones as well. You’ll get hurt sometimes. Take the time you need to rest, recover, and heal properly. Then get back at it.
Have the right equipment
Two years ago I fractured my heel because of my shoes. I tried to save money by buying a cheaper pair, and I ran in them too long. I got hurt. I now make sure I have the right equipment (or tools, or resources) for helping me achieve my goals.
Have a tribe. Don’t go alone
Trying to achieve something great is hard without the right support system around you. So find (or build) your tribe. But….
…you will be alone most of the time
It’s your goal, only you can achieve it. Most likely this will mean personal discipline and being comfortable being alone in the pursuit of your goal. If you have others that can share in your goal consider yourself extremely lucky. Otherwise, be ready to grind in the dark for much of the time.
The most meaningful goals are a competition against self. Not against others
Very few of us will be better than everyone else in whatever we’ve set out to do. But we can be better than we were yesterday.
You’ll feel great when you hit it
Keep that in mind as you grind each day. And even if you don’t reach your goal, remember, it’s better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon, than to shoot for the moon and miss altogether.
As an interesting post-script to this blog post, I was only able to run one more time in 2023 before achilles tendonitis sidelined me for the rest of the year. So now I have to practise what I preach about taking the time I need to rest, recover and heal. It’s not easy to do so when you feel like you are wasting time or falling further behind, but taking that time is very necessary. When I fractured my heel in 2020 I tried to come back too early. One run and my six week recovery window turned into sixteen, plus a few expensive MRI’s and other procedures. So lesson learned: let yourself heal when you’re hurt, let yourself recover, then come back stronger than before.
Cheers to you achieving your goals in 2024!