It’s that time of year everyone sets goals. Even those people who don’t usually set goals set goals. They are nicely packaged as New Years Resolutions. Sadly, most will never come to fruition. Why? Not because goal setting doesn’t work. It most certainly does… when done right!
How many goals did you set for your running this past year? How many of those goals that you set did you accomplish?
It is rare that a runner consistently accomplishes all goals they set. In fact I would argue that if you are accomplishing all of them you are probably setting them too low. (Or you are indeed an exception and don’t really need to read on.) Your first step to successful goal setting and accomplishment starts with an objective evaluation of your past.
- If you almost never accomplish your goals – they are probably unrealistic given your time, energy, commitment, discipline, body or maybe even talent level.
- If you almost always accomplish your goals – you may need to look at ways to stretch yourself because you may be guilty of performing within what mental game experts call your “comfort zone”.
- If you don’t set goals because you stress out or fear failing or looking bad – you need to learn proper goal setting and how goals differ than what mental game experts call “expectations”.
- If you set competing goals or too many goals – you actually diminish the chances you have at being the best possible at any single focused goal.
More often than not people commit one or more of the four basic errors in goal setting.
1. Most goals are too long-term (months or even a whole year) without any supporting process goals. Process goals are HOW you will accomplish your goals. They are your DAILY roadmap. Do you have one? If not you just stacked the odds against success. Long term goals are good for direction (I’m heading North.) But they do not provide the road map on how to get there.
Solution: Create a detailed training plan that follows solid training principles (i.e. Specificity of Training = training must be specific to event). Do not succumb to “training how you feel today” or “I’ll get some kind of long run in each weekend” or “I’ll go faster by just running LSD”.
2. And most goals are all-or-nothing… achieve-it -or-not goals. Tiered goals with several “success” levels are the sure-fire way to improve your odds.
Solution: Set three or more goal attainment levels. For instance I recommend my athletes to set Gold (perfect training, perfect competition, no injuries or setbacks, break through to new level), Silver (great training, consistent training, no significant training or physical breakdowns, good day on competition day) and Bronze (everything goes pretty well, minor exceptions, minor time off, overall strong performance to be proud of, perhaps some adversity that compromises outcome) level goals.
Example: Current PR is completion of 50K race (4:30).
- Gold Goal: Run 50k 30 minutes faster (3:59).
- Silver Goal: Set PR (4:29)
- Bronze Goal: Complete 50 miler OR complete another 50k and learn more in process
3. Setting absolute goals are destined for failure. Any goal that states “all”, “every”, “none”, “never” or the like are absolutes. How many things in life are that absolute? Appropriate goals most certainly aren’t.
Solution: Quantify your destination in attainable measures. Times are a good place to start. Improvements must be reasonable (that could be an entire article)! Places are often part of goals but remember – you do NOT control your place because you do not control who shows up on race day. Instead of going “undefeated” state it in terms of always giving 100% effort. Another common and long term detrimental type of goal is to “never drop out of a race”. Though some people love to point to this as being mentally tough that doesn’t mean they are using their heads!
4. Setting goals for many distances that are disparate will either dilute your efforts to be the best at any single distance or compromise success at all of them.
Solution: Set goals that are logically linked. 5k and 10k goals work well together. Half-marathon and marathon goals work well together. Certainly marathon and ultra-marathons work well together. Road races and trail races are not strong allies. Track events and trail racing are not very compatible. [To be clear - it isn't that you cannot run all these combinations as part of training or fun; it is that having primary performance goals for discrepant racing events reduces your chances of goal achievement.]
Now, go forth and goal set. If you ever need a coach to really optimize your chances of success… drop me a line. You CAN do this!