The Goal Setting Cycle

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a ballerina. At about age 6, my parents enrolled me in a dance class at the local park district. When the first day of class finally arrived, I couldn’t have been more excited. Donning a pink leotard and ballet shoes, I eagerly entered the studio and took my place in line with the other children. However, when the instructor began teaching us basic techniques (first position, second position, etc.) I was utterly confused. Why weren’t we doing pirouettes and gliding around the studio? I wanted to dance! After about two classes I decided ballet wasn’t for me and moved onto the next adventure. 
I tell this story not because I think I missed my calling in life as a dancer (as I can most assuredly tell you that I did not), but because too often we approach new challenges wanting immediate gratification. It isn’t until we are in the trenches and fully immersed in learning the new skill that we realize what it means to be a runner…cyclist…swimmer (or whatever other athletic endeavor you choose). 

Goals have different meanings for different people. Often times, new runners (or athletes) are afraid of setting goals. In part, this is because everything is so new, that just completing the activity is already a challenge and they don’t even know where to start. On the other hand, veteran athletes often have the tendency to get too hung up on their goals or to let their goals define them. Because I believe that goals should be viewed as fluid, not static, I have outlined the three phases that I have found to be critical to any athletic pursuit.

Phase 1: Goal Setting

Goal Setting is the first step and can be done in any number of ways. In my experience, I have found that setting a major goal is the best starting point. Once I have set my primary goal, I think about benchmarks that I would like to achieve along the way. These mini-benchmarks are important because they hold you accountable to the end-goal, act as a progress “check point,” and can provide a major boost of confidence. Choose a goal that is challenging, but realistic. 
Phase 2: Review and Readjustment
We all know that life doesn’t always go according to plan. While there is value in setting a goal and “sticking to it,” this isn’t always the case. Sometimes we may set goals that are not smart. They may be too aggressive or not take into account other external factors. The most important thing is learning when to push through adversity (such as having a bad day and still going to the gym or doing a hard workout when you really don’t want to) and learning when to readjust expectations (as may happen when being injured or going through a major life event). Always keep in mind – GOALS ARE FLUID!

Celebration, Relaxation, and Rest
Pursing a goal can be incredibly time consuming. For example, training for a marathon is commitment that takes time every day, for a number of months. After meeting (or attempting) a goal, be sure to give yourself a break! This is important both for physical and emotional well-being. Spend some time doing your activity of choice “just for fun” for a while before embarking on your next endeavor. The most successful athletes are those who can learn this balance. 

What are your goals? What goal setting strategies work best for you?