It’s that time of year to set goals. Setting goals is one of the most important parts of your season or any goal-related task. Your goals are driven by your desire, what you really want. Your goals keep you moving in the right direction on the right path.
Since it is so important, how, then, do you know what to choose as a goal? You can’t find the answer in a book. You can’t ask your friends. Your spouse doesn’t know and neither do your friends. And especially don’t expect your coach to tell you what to do. Because it has to come from within. The answer is in you.
The question then becomes: how do you find your desire to set your goals?
1. Set aside the time.
2. Find a quiet, undistracted place.
3. Quiet your mind.
4. Ask the question, what does ________want?
5. Listen for the answer(s).
Listen to the first thing that enters your mind resisting the urge to censor yourself. And don’t be afraid to think big. In fact, think HUGE. And you will define what is huge (it might be turn pro, finish an Ironman, break 4:00 in the marathon, swim a 10K open water race). These are big things that will require big work.
Often this means opening up the realm of possibility to yourself. The realm of possibility is a place where anything can happen. It’s a place that you create. To get there requires nothing more than asking yourself: If you took away concerns for your athletic abilities (strengths, limiters), age, life factors (work, finances, family) what would you want to do?
Enter______________________(your BIG THING).
Keep in mind this is the ‘big thing’ you likely will not achieve in a year – maybe not even in your lifetime. But there is no risk in dreaming big. You have to validate these thoughts. Give yourself permission to feel them, think them, and hear them out loud. When you verbalize these big goals you put them into that realm of possibility, you hear yourself becoming something else. You open yourself up to the chance.
Now, once you have your big lifetime goal it’s time to narrow your focus and set yourself up for manageable and timely success. In other words, work backwards from your BIG goal. Take the big picture and make it small. Make it small by setting smaller goals that would guide you towards that big lifetime goal.
Let’s take an example. Your big goal is to qualify for Kona. What do you need to do?
How do you qualify?
Choose a race. Let’s say you choose Eagleman 70.3.
How do you qualify at that race to achieve your big goal (qualify for Kona)?
Win your age group.
Work backwards, what do you need to do to win your age group at Eagleman.
Complete the race in 4:35 or better (if female).
Work backwards, how do you complete the race in 4:35 or better:
Swim 30, bike 2:30, run 1:30
Work backwards, how do you achieve these times:
Let’s say to swim 30 minutes it roughly takes -
Meet with a skilled swim coach to evaluate form
Swim consistently this winter (4x per week with 1 session form focus)
Swim in open water 1x per week leading up to race
Now taking all the backwards steps, work forward again and put the confounding factors in your plan. Can you realistically work towards all of the steps above considering your athletic abilities (strengths, limiters), age, life factors (work, finances, family)? If yes, then you have set a realistic goal. If no, then it’s time to reassess; set a smaller, more attainable goal for the season ahead that will help you further yourself towards your big thing.
In this process you realize that even the most intangible goal comes closer to you as you go through these steps. You look at something so far away and think to yourself how would I ever get there. When you set smaller goals you start to see more frequent accomplishment en route to your goal.
Depending on how detailed you want to get, you could set goals like this each week. Every Sunday night I sit down and think of my big thing. Then I think of ways I can work towards it each week. Of course every workout I do each way is leading towards that goal – but goal achievement is more than just checking the workouts off (JH is right). It’s mindful and engaging. A weekly goal might be to hold xxx watts for 10 minutes. Or nailing all of your flip turns in a hard set.
There is a way, there is a logical progression you can take towards your goals no matter how big they seem. It just takes time. It takes calculated steps and planning – success is never an accident and is never a direct result of luck.
So, decide where you want to go. And then find the best way to get there. Often it takes just a quieting of the mind to find your year’s desire and planning how to turn it into an attainable goal.