A while back, I wrote about goals and how I had set one and didn't get it. ( Click here to read the post: Why I didn't hit my goal ) I had one at the time that I went all in for, and didn't achieve it. I put a lot of effort into it, spent a lot of time thinking about it, really, really wanted it, and still didn't get it; but I don't regret the process for a minute. For me, goals are both a focus point, and a distraction. I know that sounds like two opposite things, but it's really true.
A goal is a focus point for me within a certain topic. It can be finishing a project at work by a deadline, getting something done around the house, or hitting a certain time in a race. In that way, it allows me to keep from getting "off task". If I am planning a run, my goal will force me to say " will today's run get me closer to my goal" ? In running, if you run 4 or 5 days/week for 30-40 minutes per night, you're only spending 2 or 3 hours per week on your running. That means you can't just go pile on the "junk miles" and call it training. By keeping your mind on The Goal ( I've now capitalized it because it is a specific and important item ) you will have to do each workout with an attribute in mind. Will tonight be a hill workout to build some leg strength and stamina; will it be a track workout to improve your speed and leg turnover rate, a tempo run to work on your cardio-vascular conditioning, etc. By keeping your Goal in mind, you will make the most of your training time, and maximize your running ability.
A goal can also be a distraction. Knowing that you have a race in 3 or 4 months can be something to think about when you're doing mundane and tedious tasks to make your day go a little quicker. Stuck in traffic ? Think about why your goal is going to be difficult, what are the biggest obstacles to attaining it, but don't stop there. That would be a negative mental exercise and counter productive. Once you identify an obstacle, you develop a plan to overcome it. ( I'm keeping most of my references and examples here running related, but they don't necessarily have to be ) If simply covering the distance of your Goal is what you worry about, you decide to build mileage during the training phase so that you remove that fear. Identifying your perceived obstacles has two benefits. One is the actual benefit of finding your weakness and addressing it. The more significant benefit is to remove the mental aspect of the obstacle. When you get pushed to your limits, your dark side will mess with your head. When you're 75% of the way through a race, your dark side will start to tell you "You can't do this", "You're not good enough", "This distance is too far for you". Your training reinforced "light side" will now have a valid response. "Yes I Can, I can do this because I've trained for this"
Every challenge is a series of obstacles, and by thinking about them in a positive and constructive way, you can come to the realization that they can be overcome. It might not be easy, but you break it down into manageable steps, develop a plan to overcome each step, and then execute that plan. Of course you have to maintain a healthy sense of realism. If I set a sub 3 hour marathon as my goal when my PR is 4:09, I am probably setting myself up for failure.
So I went for my goal and didn't get it, but the process was beneficial. I also know that particular goal can be revived and shot for again, and I may do that. My pursuit of that goal was an invigorating and enjoyable process. This is probably a topic for another day, but just about everything in life has a controllable element and a random element to it. You can only worry about the controllable things. If you do that well, you might still get beat by the random element, but there's no shame in that.
As always, thanks for reading, and let me know what your thoughts are. And whatever you do.....
...just don't stop running !!