The first chapter of my first book is all about goals. How to set goals, how to keep your goals updated and relevant and in front of you all the time. A whole slew of reasons on why it makes sense to have goals. They keep you enthusiastic, they keep you focused. If you think and dwell on your goal you are drawn towards it.
I think everyone understands the concept that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. I’m sure most people have heard of the case studies comparing classmates that set goals absolutely obliterating the accomplishments of those that didn’t set goals. Yet there are still very few people that actually set precise, specific goals for their lives. If they do have a goal then it is a vague, indistinct goal.
I’m guilty of this. Even very recently, despite the fact that I wrote a chapter on this very subject.
I finally healed from various injuries enough to start running a few months ago, and I’ve been semi-regular at it since then. But I never set an actual precise, specific goal. Just kind of getting out the door to “get in shape.” Which is of course better than sitting at home with a bowl of ice cream, but with the vague, indistinct goal of “get in shape” it’s easy to lose focus, lose enthusiasm, and skip the occasional day. Or week.
I was advised (thank you, Cinda) to set some kind of running goal, like to enter an upcoming 5K race. But I never did. I dragged my feet (which probably accounts for my slow jogging speed) and just sort of slogged through my workouts. I didn’t set a goal because:
- I didn’t feel that I knew enough about fitness to set a running goal. Which is dumb because I have access to a personal trainer and I could have asked.
- I was lazy. Which is also dumb because I was expending the energy to go outside and run but not willing to exert the mental effort to figure out a goal.
So, ignorance and laziness were my two reasons.
Last night however, as I was leaving my front door and turning on my running app trying to get a good GPS signal… My phone app threw down a challenge! It invited me to accept the Echo 50K Challenge.
The Challenge: “Track 50 kilometers with Runkeeper over the course of a month. They can be runs or walks, they just need to be GPS tracked!”
The Reward: “Get $20 off any Magellan Echo watch and three free months of Runkeeper Elite for completing!”
Now, I have no interest in a watch of any kind (because it hampers my kung-fu skills), but I thought that it was a cool idea to force people to move 50 kilometers to qualify for a discount on anything, so I hit “accept challenge.”
And just like that, my little free app tricked me into having a goal. A precise, specific goal. 50 KM in 1 month. And after consulting with a Canadian, I learned that kilometers are way shorter than miles!
So, to readdress those two lame excuses from before.
Ignorance is no excuse for not setting a goal. Make up some arbitrary number and make that your goal. If it’s too easy, you’ll know to set the bar higher next month. If it’s a statistical impossibility that you didn’t realize is utterly impossible, you’ll still be much better off striving towards perfection than ambling aimlessly.
Laziness is no excuse for not setting a goal. If anything, having a goal will empower and energize you. It gives you something to always strive towards. It’s what makes video games so addicting, because you are constantly trying to reach the next level or unlock the next badge. Not having the goal actually just adds to your burden.
A funny thing happened as I began running. The Runkeeper App sounds off every 5 minutes with your distance and pace. I usually keep my phone in my pocket with the volume turned way down, but at the 10 minute mark I managed to hear it say “distance 0.0 miles.” I fished my phone out of my pocket and sure enough, even though it showed I had a good GPS signal, for whatever reason it wasn’t counting the distance I had just run.
I had set a goal just ten minutes prior, and already adversity was conspiring against me! Which made me think of another reason that people don’t set goals: Fear. Fear of not attaining your goal, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish. Sometimes just the fear of standing out. How many times have you talked about some dream, goal or vision for your life to a group of “friends” and had them just belittle you for it? Remember, having goals is a rare thing, and being rare necessitates being different. Being different means facing opposition. And sometimes obstacles will be placed in your path to test your resolve.
Ignorance and laziness are dumb reasons that I had. Fear is not a dumb reason. Fear is a very real, potentially damaging force in our psyches. Fortunately it can be cured by a simple step: Action (which is coincidentally the second chapter in my first book, it’s almost as if my book has life lessons that are applicable to my daily life).
I’ll write next week on the subject of overcoming fear (look at me setting more goals), but in the meantime I want to encourage you to set a goal. Set a goal this week for something that you’ve never done before. And if you’re afraid to start, tune in next week for a blog post on overcoming fear.