Goals are selfish. And they should be.
I have never been a big goal setter. I had some ideas, had some plans in place, but I never fully committed. I didn’t write my goals down or put Post It’s on my computer to remind me of what I wanted to accomplish. For my performance and development goals, I would put some stuff in the clunky performance management tool to “check the box” and that was about it. For 2017, though, I decided to try something different. I figured it was time for me to listen to all the self-help gurus and motivational jedis and put some type of goal in place. So, I came up with this idea on my annual New Year’s Day run.
It was a beautiful sunny New Year’s day and I had planned to go out for about 5 or 6 miles. I should’ve known it was going to be an adventure when my wireless headphones died at mile 1. With no music to occupy my mind, I started thinking about setting a goal to run 1000 miles in 2017. I was reviewing my MapMyRun log for 2016 and had completed 560 miles. For some reason, I thought I had run more than that. I ran 2 half marathons, in 2016, and I always thought I was logging more miles. I took some time, on this run, to reflect on 2016 and I realized a few things. Yes, I ran my typical 2 half marathons, but I truly wasn’t prepared for them. My training was erratic. I drank a little too much and ate a little too much more. I didn’t have a plan in place because, after running for 5+ years and completing 10 half marathons, I thought I could wing it and get by. I struggled during these races and I realized it was because I wasn’t prepared.
1000 miles. Why? Who knows, but 1000 miles really sounds cool, doesn’t it? It may sound cool, but how in the world am I supposed to do it? It seems like a really big stretch and almost impossible to me, given my previous years’ training. I’m going to have to almost double my mileage from 2016. And this was what was going through my head at mile 3. Doubt started creeping in and I thought this was a stupid idea. What about my Friday and Saturday nights? I enjoy my pizza and beer and burritos and wine too much to want to give up for a silly goal. And what’s the point of all of this? There’s no medal, no financial gain. Just a big stroke of the ego.
Then I hit mile 4 and I started to do some math. I figured if I could average 20 miles per week, I could pull it off. Easy, right? The ego started to build back up. But, I don’t have the time to run a ton of miles during the week. With frequent travel for work, an unpredictable day schedule, and life, I don’t know how to be consistent. I broke it down some more and figured I would need 10+ miles on the weekend and close to 10 miles during the week. Done.
By mile 5, I was pumped and feeling great. 20 miles per week and I’m a 1000 miler gold medalist, in my own mind. So pumped that I decided to venture down a trail that I thought I knew. Just another mile or so and I would be home. As I got deeper into the path, a little panic set in. I saw a golf course that shouldn’t have been there. Then, came the root that jumped up and tripped me. I went head over heals and, for a second, I thought I had broken my collar bone. Luckily, after about 15 seconds, I was able to gather myself and keep going. Finally, I came upon a group of people and they pointed me in the right direction. When all was said and done, I ran 11 miles. Hey, there were my 10+ miles for the weekend!
Fast forward to today. After almost 2 months, I’m still on pace. I ran 104 miles in January and I also noticed some other changes. I have drastically reduced my alcohol intake. I still enjoy a good beer or two (just check out my Untappd profile) and I love a good glass of red, but I enjoy them on the eve of my rest days. I now run on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m sleeping a little better and I’m going to bed a little earlier. I no longer listen to music or use my FitBit. I’ve found that reducing the distractions and hassles around this goal have made it more enjoyable. I’m in tune with my surroundings and I’m able to focus and concentrate better.I’m not only improving myself physically, but mentally, I’m improving so I show up as a better person. I haven’t totally changed my diet (which has never been great) but I’m making better choices.
For the record, this will not affect my pancake production or consumption. As a matter of fact, I come up with the best recipes while on my runs. More miles equals better pancake recipes. Win Win.
So, what does this have to do with work or HR? I’m not so sure. But what I’ve realized is that setting a single goal around running has changed behaviors in my work and personal life. This is a very selfish goal. The time I’m going to spend running will be time away from family and friends. This benefits nobody but me. I also realize there are benefits for those around me. In this short time, I feel more focused in my work and I’ve started to set better professional development goals. I’m writing this post now, from this site, with my name on it, because I want to do more writing and speaking in 2017. I generate all of these ideas when I’m running.
You can read all of the science and noise about the benefits of setting goals, but until you are truly ready to take something on, you will not succeed. Setting a goal cannot be forced. Goals cannot be set for you by your manager or partner or friend. You must be committed and “all in” and you should enjoy what you are setting out to do, otherwise, it will be a waste of time.