Goal setting is everywhere. We set goals in our careers, with our health and in our lives in general. It seems that today we are so focused on the next milestone, we forget about how to approach goals and accomplish what we initially set out to do. Defining a goal is simple; it’s usually the target or objective you wish to achieve, however if you’re like me and you’re starting something new for the first time, where do you start? How can you set goals for yourself if you have no idea what you’re capable of?
I think people get confused between goals and dreams. Dreams are a destination without direction whereas goals are attainable with the right planning, approach and patience.
Everyone dreams about being better than they are; to make more money, be more successful, to do something better than the rest. Very little consider what the path my look like to get there. The real challenge is not dreaming big, its whether you’re capable of navigating the road to get there. How much pain and sacrifice are you willing to serve yourself?
I love listening to people tell me how good they could have been. It helps remind me of the fact that I need to maintain my approach and be patient. Everyone wants a gold medal; few people are willing to train like an Olympian.
I wrote a blog piece for Runnerstribe several years ago, regarding the need to implement marginal gains into your life. An overall goal is much more achievable when a systems-based approach is taken to get there. If you’re a chef, your goal might be to open a top restaurant. A systems-based approach would mean you would focus on improving your recipes, quality of ingredients and preparation techniques. Perfecting these marginal influences will have a far better success rate then approaching the goal holistically.
Goals are useful in setting direction however systems are great for making progress. In fact, the only reasons we should be setting goals in the first place is so that we have a better idea of what systems approach we require, without that, we’re just dreaming.
So far, my approach has been to get into a good training routine by sacrificing as many hours I feel necessary, while trying to maintain a healthy work life balance, to learn from my mistakes during races and to find enjoyment in all facets of the sport. There has been no pressure during the build up to races and no expectations that I felt I needed to fulfil. I’ve been able to train and race happy which I feel has played a significant role in my most recent performances.
The other advantage I’ve had this year is that everything is a complete unknown; I’m not getting caught up in the specifics or getting distracted by what everyone else is doing. I’ve spent the year competing across the different triathlon distances and have built an understanding of the training requirements. While, there have been a few instances where I have been disappointed with the results, it’s been important to put things into perspective and realise we’re still on the journey.
In all honesty, this has been the first year I’ve been able to train uninterrupted for an extended period. In the past, we were so fixated on preparing for the one track race that would determine the successfulness of the season, my body would often break down from overloading and I’d frequently underperform. This new approach towards training has allowed me to recover effectively between quality sessions, continuously build a solid base fitness and give us race options for the various distances.
Patience is my key message here; don’t get caught up on the destination, rather find a path that you’re comfortable to embark on. Enjoy the process and learn from any mistakes you may make along the way.