What does it take to set and accomplish a big goal?
In an earlier article, I wrote about how the process of running a marathon helped me overcome grief after major losses in my family. In that article, I mentioned how running the marathon was a physical challenge, but it was also — and maybe more importantly — a mental and emotional challenge. Many people asked how I did it, especially given everything that was going on in my life at the time, including the two small children I have at home.
I want to let you in on how. This was my personal 3-step process for setting and accomplishing a big goal, and I hope it’ll serve you as well as it served me.
Identify your goal (and then shout it from the rooftops)
First, let’s talk about choosing what that big, bad goal is. It definitely has to be something that scares you, but it should also be something you can realistically do. Once you have your eye on the prize, sign right up away. Write it down. Heck, tell all your friends! Speaking it out into the world will help keep you accountable to yourself. For example, when I was training for the marathon, I’d post many of my training runs and fundraising goals on social media. Putting that out on Instagram felt like I was making it visible to the world, and it made me keep at it.
Create your big, bold plan
The second step is to make a plan. For the marathon I ran, I had a training program and wrote down all of the runs I’d have to do to train my body to be able to run the 26.2 miles required in the big race. This plan added even more accountability and served as a guide toward my goal.
But let’s look at another example. Say your goal is to write a book. Maybe you plan how many pages to write per day or how many minutes you want to sit writing each morning. Whatever your plan looks like, the key to accomplishing it is a mix of consistency and flexibility. So even if you get off track in that plan, you can get right back on it (that’s the beauty in having a plan — you know exactly where to jump back in)!
Find your accountability partner
Third step? Buddy up! I trained for the marathon with my friend Maria who was raising money for her own good cause. Waking up at 5 AM for 20-mile runs was way easier because I knew I’d have a friend to share the pain/fun.
With a buddy it was impossible to push snooze when I knew she’d be waiting for me in the dark. This is a great example of where a coach would come in. For a lot of my clients, I spend time cheerleading, encouraging, and making sure that even if they fall off track, get discouraged, or lose direction, they can come back to why they set that big, bold goal in the first place.
When I was training, people would sometimes say to me, “what’s hard about training for a marathon is the time it takes to train.” That never rang true to me.
What’s hard about training for a marathon is running the miles. And not running them once, but running them once, feeling the pain, and then getting up to do it again. What’s hard about chasing after your big, bold goal is not about the steps it takes to get to it. It’s about tripping, taking detours, feeling overwhelmed, and then still going.
In the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, Clear talks about how it’s not just about the big, bold goal, but more about the habits a person embraces to achieve that goal.
He writes, “when nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”
For me, the 26.2 miles was the last blow — a reward for all the work that came before it. The hard part was a hundred blows before it, just chipping away at what I knew would be maybe one of the most transformative experiences of my life. So if you’re feeling the blows right now, it’s safe to say you’re on the right track to finishing the race.