8 Goal Setting Strategies: Lessons from an Ultramarathon
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
There is no doubt that in life we experience moments of difficulty, periods of adversity, and unexpected challenges. For each of us, the degrees of which vary, depending on our perception of the world and our own personal circumstances. It's what we do in these moments that define us. Our interpretations, reaction, past experiences, and actions then allow us to learn and grow.
Last week I shared our journey of 60 miles (check out the previous blog) and through post-run reflection I found lessons within, that transfer to other areas in life. Whatever the challenge, by accident or by design, that stretches you beyond your comfort zone is a gift. Good, bad, or indifferent, it is an opportunity to learn, grow, develop confidence, and strengthen resilience. But that's not the kicker! The 'home run' is in getting to know yourself on a more intimate level...it's seeing what your made of!
For us, the challenge set was far and beyond our comfort zone. It was the longest run we'd ever done! For you, YOUR personal challenge may be something different. Be it a 5k run, Half-Ironman, starting a new business, studying for a masters or doctoral degree, instilling a new lifestyle habit, presenting in front of a group, or going skydiving!
So for your next epic challenge, follow and apply these 8 strategies:
ONE SET A GOAL
Whatever lays in front of you, it's important to have or create an 'End-Goal'. Better still, find something that you also connect to emotionally. A feeling you will associate with the accomplishment. This serves as your marker, destination, or reference point. It provides the ammunition and fuel to the journey of accomplishment. Once you have a goal, you have a target, and so begins the planning. For us, that goal was to finish the 60 mile Speyside Way from Spey Bay to Aviemore in one day. Yours will look different. It may be to Graduate from University with honours, begin eating entirely plant-based, fundraise 10k to launch your new business venture, or to take your family to Disney World.
TWO PREPARATION PRECEDES EXCELLENCE
Leave no stone unturned. What is required of you to reach your goal? What steps, actions, or decisions must you make along the way? What potential obstacles or challenges are you likely to encounter? The more you are prepared, the more confident you become in tackling the various situations and challenges that can arise. Many of which you will have already identified and anticipated. When all our training was complete, when we'd prepared as best we could, we went into the run with the following mindset; Trust the training, and expect the unexpected.
THREE SMALL VICTORIES
With each big goal, the key is to establish 'small victories' along the way. They act as short term achievable targets, carrying you towards the ultimate goal like a rolling stone gathering moss.
Along our route we would snack/drink every 30 minutes. Every 5 miles was a 'victory'. We knew at 10 miles we were 1/6th there, at 15 miles we were a 1/4, at 20 miles...1/3. Every 5 miles gave a little more context and momentum. Find and create those markers that act as stepping stones towards your goal. AND celebrate each one!
FOUR WIN THE MENTAL GAME
The greatest challenge we faced on this run was not the distance, physical exertion, or time on task! The greatest challenge was the race being ran 'between our ears'. As the famous saying goes; "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right!". 60 miles...yes I said it, SIXTY MILES, is a daunting prospect when you get out of bed in the morning!! However, running 10 miles 6 times seems a little easier. How about 5 miles 12 times, that's not such a big deal! This is called reframing. How can you reframe your own goal or target into something that is less daunting and manageable.
FIVE NO PAIN NO GAIN
Beginning around mile 7, until mile 27, a nagging knee pain that began during training set in and progressively got worse. I expected to feel pain during the run, but this was both acute and excruciating. I became a conversational recluse and spent so much of that time in my own head with my own thoughts. When the going gets tough, what do you do? This is where most would see a way out! Where the mind finds every excuse to throw in the towel. BUT my will held firm. I consciously fought back with the 'Negative Nancy' planted firmly in my mind. I reminded myself of the end goal, the 'Why', how I was going to feel, and made sure to take it one 'small victory' at a time. You will face a struggle or challenge meant to test you. It's sods law! The pain and discomfort this causes can be managed and navigated through positive self talk. Create mantras that will keep you grounded and motivated along the way. Just remember that "it hurts until it feels good", so persevere.
SIX KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Just like the trusty tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. We were very much aware that running 60 miles is different to completing 60 miles. Completion was our end goal, and so we had given ourselves permission to walk. During the peaks and valleys of your own journey, give yourself permission to slow down, scale back, and reflect. Do not quit on yourself, and do not give up on the goal. Just remember to take at least one action on a daily basis that will keep you moving forward.
SEVEN SUPPORT CREW
Believe it or not, people are there to help you. Others want you to succeed and will go out of their way to help if given the opportunity! Whatever you aim to accomplish, or wherever you want to go, someone has most likely been there before and created the path that you're on. Teamwork makes the dream work! Surround yourself with good people, seek advice and feedback as much as possible, set clear expectations of what you need from them, and maintain clear communication.
EIGHT WE ARE CAPABLE OF ANYTHING
My biggest takeaway from completing our Speyside Way 60 mile Ultra Challenge is that we are more powerful than we believe. We have the ability to think bigger, push harder, jump higher, run further, acquire knowledge, build confidence, and gain experience. In times of stress, amidst challenges, we have the ability to choose mind over matter. Very few things, if anything, are impossible anymore. Impossible is negotiable. Failure is not something to be viewed negatively, instead it's one step closer to the end goal. Embrace each failure and extract the lessons from within.
So now it's up to you. What is it that you've always wanted to do but have never said out loud? What excites you to your very core? Whether it be a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (B.H.A.G, it's a thing!), or something smaller, start with the end in mind and navigate through the lessons with confidence. Now go get em'.