I have seen the power of goals work first hand with the athletes I have coached over the past 25-years. You can take two athletes of similar abilities and give them both the same training schedules. But if one has specific goals they are targeting with those workouts and the other is just using them to have a consistent program going, the one with the goals will gain significantly more fitness.
That’s the beauty of goals! A pie in the sky goal is like your personal accountability knocking at your mind’s door each day keeping you on task with the work needed to hopefully bring it into form. It’s the magnet drawing you out of bed in the morning to go workout. The big goals are the ones that scare you just enough with their uncertainty that you put in the hard work when needed, even if it’s uncomfortable or unnatural.
Big goals are a push and a pull. They work to bring the best out of you. They weigh heavier on the “should I train or blow it off” decision making teeter totter than the excuses sitting on the other end of the fulcrum saying it’s okay to skip the workout. Here are three tips to help you to set goals.
A goal has to spark something significant inside of you when you think about going for it. You don’t have to write a discourse about why it has meaning. It could be as simple as you just want to try something amazing. “I want to see if I can complete an IRONMAN!” There doesn’t need to be the potential for a life-changing impact to come from achieving it either. It’s motivating just knowing you are going for something pretty cool!
I am sure you have gone down the road of pursuing a goal that someone else said is important for you. But unless you also feel it’s importance, that goal will lose out to other things that ultimately spark a deeper calling in you. And you’ll know if a goal is really yours and not someone else’s when you start doing the work to achieve it. If it’s yours, you’ll wake up day after day excited about how you’re going to get there.
I will not sugar coat this one. There is never a road reaching for the big goals that has smooth pavement the entire way. There’ll be challenges you didn’t know you were going to have to deal with. You might take a few wrong turns and have to backtrack to get back on the real track. There can be periods when you feel like your working your ass off only to stand still and not get anywhere. This is when layers within that goal can help.
Here’s an example from my racing. My BAHG (Big Ass Hairy Goal) was to win the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona. That was the top goal. But I was also realistic and knew that on any given day there is only going to be one person who earns that honor. So I had to have a few layers of meaning to the race that would keep me going even if that BAHG felt like it was slipping from my grasp.
So my second level goal was to just try to get the most out of my body that I could. That meant going for it even if that was less than what I could do on another day.
Then my third level goal was the one that kept me going even if all the wheels fell of my race. It’s what kept me going when I felt completely broken down and wanted to quit. That goal was to just cross the finish line no matter how long it took me, no matter how far down on the results page my name would appear.
Even on the days where I won, I had long periods where victory seemed impossible. That second goal of getting the best out of what I had to give kept me engaged 100%. There were also periods even in the victorious years when I felt like I couldn’t take another step and was thinking about just dropping out.
That third layer goal kept me going during those moments. I’d pull back my expectations. I’d remind myself in the darkest moments that to even cross the finish line would be a victory. That had immense meaning to try to do. And I’d make that commitment to finish. And then a few minutes later my energy would come back and doing good seemed like a possibility. Then I’d feel even better and the potential for winning would also return!
What are your goals for this year? Have you set them? Do they have meaning for you? Are there layers to them to help you weather the inevitable challenges that come along the way to something great?
Here’s a story of how I had to redefine purpose after a horrendous incident training in 1992.
Let us help you find your purpose at Mark Allen Coaching!
(This is the seventh in a 9-part series of blogs on tips to help you train and race at your best!)
I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.