This weekend I will be accomplishing my ultimate, long-standing goal of completing a half marathon.
I call this my ultimate goal because it’s something I’ve wanted to accomplish for so long. It’s been on my mind for a while and it always seemed like something that was so far out of reach for me to do.
I started running several years ago with the intention of becoming a ‘runner.’ I wanted to be one of those people who runs and is actually able to run longer than a minute without getting winded. Once I started getting stronger and feeling more confident, I had a thought about how crazy it would be to run a half-marathon and said, “I should do that one day.” ‘One day’ was always the time frame I had for when I would do it. In reality, it was more of a passing thought that I didn’t seem to take very seriously at first; I just knew I wanted to do it.
Everything changed for me about a year ago when I was heading to meet my family for Father’s Day and I drove past the runners in the Manitoba Marathon. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and I got a flash of inspiration. I thought to myself, “I want to do that next year,” and that’s where this entire process started for me. Even still, this time last year I had no idea how I was actually going to go about training and eventually running a half marathon but I was determined that I was going to do it.
Slowly but surely I figured out my game plan. The end goal was the half marathon, so how could I get there? I worked backwards. Instead of jumping right into a half marathon training plan, I broke it up into smaller goals. I knew I would need to have a solid running foundation and I knew I needed to learn how to train and run in a race. So I worked on increasing my weekly running distance and figuring out a pace I could sustain for longer distances. Once I felt stronger, I began training for a 10km race in the fall. My training for this shorter race was filled with weekly goals for my distances that I needed to accomplish.
I completely fell in love with the whole process of training.
The most exciting part was setting those distance goals for myself and accomplishing them week after week. Each week was a new goal to work towards and the best part was, it helped break up the longer distance that I had to do and made it seem much more attainable.
I now had all the tools I needed to be able to take that final leap towards completing the half. The training process for a half marathon is exactly like training for any other long distance race; you break it up into smaller weekly goals. Eventually, the long distances start feeling easier and one step at a time you get to where you need to be.
Though technically I’ve been training for the half for the last four months, it feels like it’s taken me a year to get here and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m happy with the steps I took and one year later, I am confident and ready to run my half marathon.
More than anything, training for these runs has taught me the importance of goal setting.
When I first started this journey a year ago, the thought of running 21km was completely overwhelming and seemed impossible. I couldn’t wrap my brain around running that distance and I really didn’t know if I would be able to do it. But I baby-stepped my way to where I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t made those smaller goals and set an attainable plan for what I wanted to accomplish. So here I am, two days before I complete my half marathon and wrap up a year’s worth of mini goals that helped me get here!
I’ve loved the journey that I’ve been on and I wanted to share my newfound love of goal setting with you.
I truly feel that everyone can benefit from setting goals. It seems the majority of people become inspired to set goals as part of their New Year’s resolutions. But why do we only set those goals for ourselves once per year? And more importantly, why do most people not follow through once they’ve set goals for themselves? It’s not as easy as just thinking about what you want to accomplish and hoping that the rest will fall into place. Goal setting is a process that requires a bit of thought and time in order to do it right so you can actually succeed. But the good news is, if you take the time to properly set your goals, you are going to be that much more likely to succeed and follow through on what you want to accomplish. In this post, I’m going to outline why goal setting is so important, what you can use it for and how to do it right so that you will improve your chances to succeed!
Why goal setting is so important
The reality is if you set goals for yourself you will be more likely to follow through. Putting pen to paper and writing down your goals makes them real. If your goal is only ever a thought in your head, it’s not likely to ever take shape and manifest into an action.
Goal setting is also important because it helps us be specific and clear with what we want.
Using career as an example, many people would say ‘being successful’ is a goal that they have. But what does that mean? What does success mean to you and how are you going to make it happen? You can write these goals and aspirations down in order to get a clear picture of what you want. If you can’t define what you want, how can you expect yourself to accomplish it? Setting your goals will help you get specific with what you want so you know what needs to be done in order to make it happen.
What can you goal set for?
Anything you want!
Goal setting is totally personal and will be different for everyone. Use goal setting for anything that you want to accomplish, big or small. I think when someone mentions goal setting, a lot of people will think about setting big-picture goals for their life and career and what they want to accomplish personally and professionally.
But as a nutritionist, I believe very strongly in setting goals for your health and what you want to achieve for you body and mind.
When I have a new client, I first ask them why they are here to see me and what their goals and concerns are. More often than not, I’ll get general responses like weight loss. In my consults, I then dive deeper with my clients to figure out what that means to them, why they want to lose weight and what we need to do in order to help them get there. When it comes to health, I find most people will generalize what they want to achieve and have rarely thought about the specifics about what it means.
As another example, maybe you have a fitness goal that you want to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be as specific as completing a half marathon. It could just be a positive habit that you’d like to form like working out more. You can keep it general like that but make sure to have specifics defined as well, like how many days per week or what you want to do at the gym. It’s not effective to simply say you want to work out more.
Eating healthier and working out more are two very general goals that I see in my practice but once we’re able to decipher what that means to each individual, we’re able to develop a plan. Part of my job is helping my clients get specific with their goals so we can figure out the steps that need to be taken to facilitate change. Balancing health and disease is a complicated process, but getting clear with what you want to achieve and why is the best place to get started!
When to do it
Truthfully, you can set goals for yourself any time you want. Try not to overdo it though! It could backfire if you had 25 different goals you were trying to accomplish at once. A good rule is to stick to one major goal at a time and have two or three smaller goals going at the same time. But use your judgment for what you’re able to handle in your life.
Personally I like setting goals for myself at the beginning of the year to give myself an outline for the year ahead. I don’t call them resolutions but rather my intentions for the year. I like having those goals outlined and a plan in place for the year. But inspiration can strike any time so just go with it. You’ll know when it’s right to sit down and put a plan into action for what you want to accomplish.
How to get started
When you’re beginning the process of setting your goals, remember to be S.M.A.R.T with them. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.
Specific: Get specific with what you want and you’ll be more likely to accomplish it. If your goal is to eat healthier, break this down into more specific actions for you to take. Figure out what healthy eating means and how you can incorporate small changes to lead up to the bigger goal. Maybe to you eating healthier means incorporating more vegetables into your diet and eating less fast food. So start small and begin with setting a weekly goal for yourself. A good place to start is cutting back on your fast food purchases to no more than twice per week. The following week you can incorporate mixed greens salads into your lunches a few days. Each week you can build on your progress and add in more positive changes. Small steps that lead to a larger overall goal is the best way to do it!
Measureable: ‘I want to be healthier’ isn’t a measurable goal! Take it one step further: ‘I want to improve my diet so I can feel better overall, have more energy to be with my family and lose weight so I can play with my kids.’ It’s a measurable feeling and has a defined result of the goal. Think about what it will feel like once you accomplish it. ‘Being healthier’ isn’t a definable feeling; ‘having more energy and being able to keep up with your kids’ is.
Attainable: Do you have the time and resources to be able to accomplish it? It’s fine to shoot for the stars, but don’t make your goals so outrageous that there is no possible way for you to accomplish them. If you want to improve your diet, start with those easy changes. If eating healthier is a goal, start with adding in an extra serving of vegetables to your lunches and dinners. That’s all it would take to create some positive changes. Don’t stress yourself out with trying to live up to what you see on social media and that sensationalized version of healthy eating. Keep things realistic and attainable when you’re first starting out. (You can check out my blog post on keeping it simple here!)
Relevant: You want to think hard about your goals and if they are relevant to you. I would encourage you to think about why you have certain goals and if it’s something you want to do for you, or if there is another reason behind it. Accomplishing a goal to prove a point to someone or to impress someone else isn’t going to bring you joy and it’s not going to be a positive experience in the end. Goals should be something you do for yourself and something that will add value and positivity to your life.
Timely: Set a realistic timeline for your goals! Using my goal as an example, it wasn’t until I had the specific objective of completing the half in the Manitoba Marathon this year that I was able to put a plan in place in order to accomplish it. Don’t set your goals to be accomplished ‘someday’ or ‘one day’ because that day will never come!
Tools to use
I would highly recommend getting yourself a notebook, journal or planner to help keep track of your goals. I’m maybe one of the few millennials who actually still uses an agenda to write down all of my appointments and plan my weeks. But having a planner to write stuff down in is so much better than typing it in your phone. I really like having a tangible list but more than anything, I also like having my previous goals and plans to look back on as well. It can be incredibly helpful and inspiring to see where you were even 6 months ago. I love looking back on where I started and what I’ve managed to accomplish.
My current obsession is my Bullet Journal, which is basically my day planner, journal, list keeper and everything else in between. It’s a blank notebook that you design and you decide what to fill the pages with. You get to be creative with it and I keep track of everything in it from my goals, to my bill payments, to movies I want to see and books I want to read. It’s my all-in-one organizer and it’s been a game changer for me. There’s a whole Bullet Journal process that outlines how you can use it and how to get started. Check out bulletjournal.com for more information.
You don’t need a fancy notebook to get started though; truthfully all you need is a sheet of paper. But I can’t stress enough the importance of writing your goals down. Writing your goals down makes them real and tangible. It’s an incredibly effective way of keeping yourself on track and accountable to what you hope to achieve. But don’t just write them down and stick that paper in your drawer! Write them down and figure out your plan for accomplishing them. Stick that paper on your fridge or post it in your office so it’s somewhere you can see. Figure out those baby steps that you need to take and you’ll have a solid plan to achieve anything you set your mind to!