The Importance of Goal Setting

Yesterday I completed my first half marathon. It had long been on my bucket list, but I had plenty of excuses not to do it over the years when my friends were running. Back in April I ran the 12.8km ‘Run for the Kids’ course for the first time since having children five years earlier. I found it a very hard run given that I had previously enjoyed it each year. I thought I could fluke it with haphazard training and ultimately I finished it feeling fatigued, sore and utterly exhausted. So when friends suggested I join them for a half marathon at the end of July my immediate response was “No Way”. The thought of running 21.1kms when I had struggled with less than 13kms was nerve wracking! I explained that I would ‘one day’ run a half marathon, as it was on my bucket list. Perhaps in a year; when I was fitter; when my kids were older; when I had more time… You know how it is – we can always find an excuse when we want to! In the end, it was my friend Jesse who convinced me to do it by telling me straight “If it’s on your bucket list, just f**king do it”. She was right. It was an ultimate goal for me, so why put it off.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”

Now that I had a goal, I wanted to ensure that I could fulfil it successfully, so with twelve weeks to go I put together a plan. Like most people, I often set goals for work but I falter with the plan to actually achieve them. Most of the time my plan fails because the end date (or goal date) is flexible. With the half marathon, I knew what date it was on and I couldn’t change it. My running plan had to work to a set date – I had no choice. With this in mind it was easier for me to be disciplined and stick to the plan even when I didn’t want to. Who wants to do a 15km run when it’s windy and rainy? Not me, but I had no choice. This is where I’ve let myself down in the past when goal setting. I may have had a task of ‘call X number of prospective clients’ but if I didn’t achieve it I could justify it with excuses because the consequences were small in my mind, but what I didn’t realise was that by not fulfilling that task I was pushing myself further away from achieving the end goal.

Completing the half marathon has taught me a lot about what I can achieve when I set my mind to it and I’m now ready to set some professional and personal goals with plans to hold me accountable. Here are my top five (5) tips for setting and achieving a long held goal:

  1. Set a time for when the goal must be completed and stick to it. Make sure this is a non negotiable. It might help to tell people about your goal and when you want to achieve it so that they can support you.
  2. Put together a plan that is achievable for each week leading up to the end goal. This should be realistic and broken down into weekly or daily tasks. The smaller the task the easier it is to achieve. It can also help to put it into a spreadsheet or your calendar to make it easy to follow.
  3. Have some accountability with the tasks in the plan. For me, it was running with friends and having to increase my distance each week. Depending on your end goal, it might be a weekly check in with a colleague or manager, or some kind of consequence if you don’t achieve it (like not buying those new shoes you had your eye on).
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve slipped up on your plan. I know this sounds contradictory to point 3, but sometimes things happen outside of our control that prevent us from completing a task like an injury or work deadline. Be sure to pick up right where you left off the very next day – don’t write off a whole week because of a bad day.
  5. Celebrate achieving your goal! You’ve put in the hard yards to achieve it, you should be proud.

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