Goal setting is essential for any human action, especially when you're expecting a steady progress. We could talk hours and hours about how important it is to have a goal. It does not necessarily need to be sports or fitness-oriented goal, like to run a half-marathon. It can be anything that keeps you moving forward, develops you as a person or professionally. Sometimes, it is just a part of your life that makes you feel fulfilled.
Agree with me or not, life with no goal is life with no direction and it might end up running in circles. In better case, in worse, you'll be stagnating (It's in conflict with the very basic definition of the words "life", "lively", "to live").
To help you a little bit, the key is to know how to set up your goal in order to make you feel accomplished. The author of the bestselling book "Your Performing Edge", Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter determined 5 basic principles that help you make goal setting more effective.
And this is how I did it:
- Focus on aspect within your control
As a newbie triathlete I directed my energy towards aspects of training and competition that are potentially within my control. In other words, adjusting my training plan, diet and effort level to my work schedule (I've been lucky with this one). Elements such as weather, placing, competitors are beyond my control and I should not really worry about that. If weather sucks, I simply modify my training. If competitors are too fast, I run faster (that' s what I call competition).
- Create measurable goals
Write your goal to your journal, log book, notebook. Anywhere, so you can see it everyday. Try to be as specific as possible which means the goal should provide a framework for evaluating progress such as time. My goal is already pinned on our board together with the bib number from my first triathlon race, so I see it everyday - consciously and subconsciously.
As you can see, the goal for my first triathlon season is to complete Nation' s Triathlon in my almost hometown Washington DC within 2:45 and possibly be in top 10 in my age group. Very specific, very realistic and challenging as well. Doable, if I keep doing the hard work. The race is taking place on September 7th, which is roughly 2 months from now.
- Set both long term and short term goals
As a fitness coach I have my clients setting up their short term goal based on long term goal, knowing that purpose of setting up your short term goal is to bring you closer to your final goals. Do not skip your short term goal. Realistically speaking, if you decided to lose unwanted weight, you're not gonna lose 30 pounds in one month (in a healthy way). Set up up a short term goal that will lead to losing those 30 pounds, focus better on losing first 8. Accomplishing my long term goal I see myself crossing the Ironman finish line within five years. (Lake Tahoe = more specific goal). I would die for competing in such an amazing race (thinking that it consists of 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike ride and a marathon run I will definitely be close enough).
- Make your goal public
Don' t keep your goals to yourself. Share it with friends, colleagues, family, so they can be part of it and encourage you on your way. You'll be surprised how many people will support you and will become your fans if you will allow them. I posted my short term goal in my Facebook news as I have registered for Nation' s Tri, so my friends know what I am up to and that I am most likely not gonna party hard with them while training for my race, indeed.
Don' t be afraid to talk about your goals and make them real. After all, research has shown that those who make their goals public in some way perform significantly better, but that' s already about effects of eccentric motivation and we will come back to this topic.