How to Set Goals

Goals…goals, goals, goals. To be honest, until 2013, I never set myself any personal goals. To be honest, at that point I was still confused about what the point of setting goals at work was.

In 2013, a goal just kind of presented itself. Around New Years, a good friend of mine asked if I wanted to do a marathon with her, and for some reason I can’t really point to, I said yes. And thus started one of the coolest experiences in my life. First, I did a couch to 10k program because until saying yes to this task, I had only run longer than three miles once, and it was a fluke, and it was a year earlier. I was not a runner.

So after doing some research I spend probably three months doing a couch to 10k program that started with walk run combos and slowly built up the lengths of the running portions while shortening the walking portions. My goal was to get comfortable with six miles because the marathon training program I found started the long runs around six miles. From there I started my marathon training, which, with some injuries, took me all the way to completing my first marathon at a 10 minute/mile test. First personal goal complete!

In 2014, I didn’t really have a goal. You see, I hadn’t really looked at my marathon training and completion as a goal. It was just some crazy thing I decided to do.

But as 2014 ended and I caught myself, again, complaining about how I never had time to read. So I upped and actually set myself a goal. My goal was to read a book a week until 2015 came to an end. To simplify it, I set myself a goal to read 56 books (52 weeks + 4 extra weeks for december). A lot of people (parents and friends included) looked at me like I was nuts. But I did it. It took some sacrifice here and there. But I’ll get into that in another post.

This goal to read a book a week is what really changed my mindset. And so, as you guys know, I set a few big goals for myself this year. But how did I pick those goals? There are a few keys for me when creating goals for myself.

  1. It has to be something you’re beyond passionate about.
  2. It has to be attainable.
  3. It has to push you to make changes.

Passion is what will keep you going when you hit a wall. For example, if I didn’t care about reading, the first time I would have hit a hard read I might have just given up on the goal for the entire year. But I set this goal because I love reading. And so when I hit a wall, I reminded myself of that. I reminded myself of how far I’d come. And then I’d find a solution. Sometimes I put the book down and gave up on that one read, sometimes I gave myself longer to read it figuring out times and books that will help me catch up later.

Attainability is a hard one. People, I’ve noticed, have a tendency to set themselves ridiculous goals. When my friend asked me to run a marathon with her, although I said yes on the spot, I quickly did research on marathon training and figured out about how long it should take me to go from couch to marathon. Thankfully there is some variety in training plans so when I got injured in the spring I could make small changes that still allowed me to train in my given amount of time. When I set my book a week goal, people looked at me like I was crazy. But I knew from experience that on vacation I could read a book a day if it was a really good book. So I knew a book a week was something I could achieve. It’s so tempting to set insane goals for yourself, but the thing with goals is their existence isn’t what makes you complete goals. Just because a goal is there doesn’t mean you will reach it. Make sure you create goals that challenge you, but aren’t totally insane.

Making change is the big one. Do I still run marathons today? Honestly? No. While I have discovered that I love training for marathons (so weird) I don’t actually enjoy the races I’ve signed up for since that first marathon. Do I intend to read a 52 books again in 2016? Maybe, maybe not. There were a lot of books I set aside in 2015 because I knew they were too long to fit into my goal. Maybe I’ll tackle those this year instead. So what was the point?

Training for a marathon showed me something that I could have sworn was false. It showed me that I was physically capable of things that I never imagined. It also showed me what proper training can really do. Every week that I ran a little bit farther on my long run I was nerdily elated at how well my training program worked. I know so much more about my body today than I did before that year. And I continue playing with different programs (not just running) and ways of eating to this day without the same hunger for thinness that I had before the marathon.

And with reading. This is a big one. When some people heard about my reading goal they’d say to me “Wow! I love reading too but I never find the time for it.” When I explain to them that I had the same issue but was sick of hearing myself make that excuse. There was so much time in a day that I could have devoted to reading. I gave up some pointless tv time (not all tv, but I gave up watching reruns of friends because I already mostly knew all of them by heart). There were some saturdays that I stayed in bed reading all day instead of, I don’t know, sitting at a friend’s house watching movies. The point of this goal was that I knew I had time to read, I was just using it to do things I was less passionate about.

So in conclusion, find that thing that you’ve always wanted to do. It has to be something YOU want not something you think society expects of you. Find that thing, do some research, and set your goal. And stick to it. Don’t let one slip up ruin a whole year’s goal. Start with one. Start with something small, or big, you know you best. But do it. Start this year. There’s no better day than today!

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