How to set goals
If you want to set and achieve a sporting goal (or even any goal), I’ve got some tried, tested, sweated tips for you, gleaned from a large amount of trial, a good dollop of error and some sprinklings of success.
The first and key step is to be super honest about what you want. It sounds easy, but the challenge is to be honest with your internal self, not the side of you that might like to impress others.
Maybe you want to run for 5 minutes, or a marathon without stopping? Want to beat your partner’s time at an event? Want to start cycling, or cycle your first 100 miles? Maybe none of those appeal to you; the trick is to work out what does.
The reason honesty is the key secret ingredient, is when you know what you really want, you will be super-motivated and committed. You’ll want to put in the right research and training before, and the maximum effort on the day, because you want it.
We need that real motivation to stop us hitting the snooze button; to get out in the cold; to train with some passion. If you don’t want it, you wont do it.
This is how I’ve run my first races, improved my performances, and how I cycled the whole Tour de France. Could I have done any of that if I didn’t really really honestly want it? The answer is no, and that’s a big reason so many don’t reach their goals.
It might seem scary at first, but most of us actually do well to share our goals with some people. It can be a few friends and family, it doesn’t have to be online to thousands of followers, although it can be if you find that motivating.
Once we’ve told people what we’re aiming for, we often feel a stronger commitment to our goal as it’s moved from a private aim to said ‘out loud’. But more importantly, you’ll probably be surprised at what an added boost your friends and family give you through their support, and how reassuring it is to be able to share your challenges and your progress with your chosen confidantes.
Going public doesn’t commit you to following through no matter what. If you have real problems like major life stress or illness, and have to defer your goals, people will understand.
Fear of failure?
As the best goals are stretching, you might not always achieve them, but there’s glory in having committed to your best effort.
Take me, I’ve lost count of my attempts to run a sub 3 hour marathon. My PB is 3.00.04. But it wouldn’t be that near if I hadn’t thought I honestly wanted to run sub 3, and committed to training hard, ran in the dark and the rain, ran hard on the day. If I’d said instead I’d go for sub 3.05, would I be happy? No, because my honest goal was sub 3. Although I’ve missed it (so far!..) I’m still happy because I know I gave as much as I could. I still want to achieve it too.
People will rightly be impressed at your commitment and effort to achieve a goal. Hitting it is the icing on the cake, but the work to hit it is what goals are made of. Theodore Roosevelt put it brilliantly:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Is it worth it?
Back to the honesty – if you want it, then yes it is.
Not everyone will be as excited as you about your goal, that’s because it’s personal to you. You might not love every single second when you feel tired or wonder if you can do it. But think of yourself this time next year. Did you sit safe on the sofa or did you get honest and get on it?!
Good luck! Do post any questions below and I’ll do my best to help.
Useful links for achieving & celebrating goals
Products to help you achieve your goal
Products to help celebrate a goal
More tips on reaching your goals
- Two top positive mindset tricks to improve your training and racing
- How to get motivated
- How to make time to train
- Don’t forget to go mental: how to achieve your goals