This video update was recorded live after my recent half-marathon in Forest Grove, Oregon. A tired runner (me) and the sound of cowbells (for someone else who finished the race mid-video) is included at no extra charge.
If you can’t watch the video, here’s a
short longer-than-usual summary.
If you’ve read along for a while, you know that I attribute a lot of my personal success to an intense process of goal-setting I undergo every year. I call this my Annual Review, and ever since I started doing it each December, I’ve made a great deal more progress during the next year than I initially thought I would.
For example, I originally intended to visit 10 countries a year and I ended up being able to go to at least 20 for three years and counting. I learned I could manage grad school, full-time work, international travel, service commitments, and other events simultaneously without stressing out or dropping too many balls. It’s not always pretty, but it works.
Last December during the review, I included a fitness goal of running either one marathon or two half-marathons in 2009. Well, here we are in September, and I finally got around to running my first real race. In my partial defense, most races in my part of the world take place around this time of year, so I’m not super late. But it’s also true that while I’ve been keeping reasonably fit all year, I’ve definitely struggled in the long-distance running department.
Because of all my travel, consistent training has been tough. I try to work out wherever I am in the world, but running a few miles a few times a week is much different than training for a marathon.
Until the day of my half-marathon, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could do it. I ended up having a great race that helped me start off a busy week on a high note, but all the way until the halfway point I was wondering, is this going to work?
It reminded me of the question I’ve heard from readers a few times over the past year: what happens when we don’t achieve an important goal?
I do everything I can to achieve what I set out to do, but it’s true that once in a while, something doesn’t work out as planned. In the case of failure, I adopt a three-step process as outlined below.
1. Acknowledge disappointment. If something doesn’t work out, I don’t want to kill myself over it– but I also don’t want to forget about it right away. I take goal-setting seriously and I don’t want to fail. If it happens, I’m going to be a little disappointed, and that’s OK.
2. Revert to backups if possible. The goal of running two half-marathons instead of one full marathon is a good example of a backup goal. I don’t have any pretense that two halves equals a whole (they are very different events, and the full marathon is much more challenging for most runners). However, I view the two half-marathons as an acceptable backup goal. Because of everything else I’ve been involved in this year, I don’t mind accepting a substitute as long as it is somewhat comparable. Which leads me to the past point:
3. Compare to other goals at the end of the year (and reevaluate for next year). If I really don’t do something well that I had planned for, I may be disappointed, but I’ll try to put it in context of everything else I did manage to accomplish.
As part of this final step, when I fail to do something I deliberately set out to do, I re-evaluate that goal in the context of future planning. This begins with asking myself how important the goal is to me. Do I really want to run full marathons? What if I have to choose between visiting 20 countries a year and running 26.2 miles at one time?
In a case like this I can either a) keep the goal on the list for another time, or b) decide I don’t need to worry about it for now.
To take another example, for three years in a row I was frustrated with a side business I had built while overseas. The business was successful in a financial sense, but growth was stagnant and I found I lacked the desire to make the improvements I knew it needed. Three times I set important goals for the business, and three times it didn’t happen.
I finally gave up and just decided I would work on something I was more passionate about, which eventually became the site you are reading about now. With my ADD personality I work very hard at things I care about– and almost not at all at things I don’t care about. Thankfully, I care a lot about almost everything I am doing these days.
Overall, I want to have many more successes than failures– and I believe that is what you can expect when you take goal-setting seriously. My personal success rate is more than 80%, and I don’t know why anyone else’s should be less. Someone more focused than me should probably be even higher.
Even with a >80% success rate, however, some things will fall through the cracks from time to time. I love running, but I think for now I may need to accept that the half-marathon is my longest distance while I’m still traveling so actively. That’s OK with me. It’s also nice to finish a race tired and fulfilled– but not completely dead to the world for several days, which is how I’ve felt after the three full marathons I’ve ran.
Another person might look at the same scenario and decide that making any sacrifice in a fitness goal is not acceptable. They might have to adjust the other activity (travel) to compensate, or perhaps find a third variable that could be adjusted to allow both goals to flourish.
Remember, no one else will ever care about your goals as much as you do. If you don’t take them seriously, who will? Sometimes one of them may not work out as planned, but most of the time you’ll surprise yourself with how easy it was.
By the way, as of the day of this post, there are exactly 115 days left in 2009. Are you on track to finish everything you hoped for this year? If not, there’s still time to take another look.