Recently I came across a blog post that presents a checklist of some pretty darn thought-provoking tips about setting goals that will really inspire you. It so happens that the focus of this blog, Mark B’s Big Adventures on Average Talent, is running, as were these tips for goal-setting. However, it dawns on me that they would be useful in setting goals for all sorts of activities.
It might be an activity that you have been engaged in for many years, but want to try taking to the next level. Maybe writing or quilting, or skiing. Or it might be an activity that you’ve been considering trying for some time now but haven’t pushed yourself to take the leap, like painting or pottery, or snowboarding or golf. Or public speaking!
Think about an activity you’re already fully engaged in or one that you’ve been thinking about trying out for a long time now. Then think about setting a goal to start a new project or challenge related to that activity and see if Mark B’s checklist works for you. I’ve altered some of the descriptors to be generic rather than focusing on running.
#1 Does your goal excite you? If it doesn’t turn your crank, you should choose another project. You’re not likely to get far if you’re not excited about it. Besides, why bother!
#2 Are you scared of your goal? In other words, does it take you out of your comfort zone. It should.
#3 Is there a risk that you may not make it? The answer to this should be a resounding YES!! If it will be easy to achieve then it isn’t an ambitious goal that will excite and motivate you to reach a higher level.
#4 Do you have a chance to achieve it? If it is unobtainable then setting the target isn’t an inspirational challenge, it’s just a dream.
#5 Might other runners/quilters/writers/etc. in your community join in? A shared challenge can transform the experience, providing mutual encouragement and support.
#6 Does it fit with your values? This may or may not apply, but, for example, if you are heavily committed to sustainability or supporting certain charities, you may be able to tailor your goal to fit within that context.
#7 If something more inspiring comes along, don’t be afraid to change your target! Your target is for you only. You can always change it to something that comes up that seems more of more immediate value or interest. You can come back to your original goal later!
I can imagine this checklist working for me if, say, I’ve always wanted to write a novel but had hesitated to take that all-important first step – put bum in seat. Regardless of the excuses I gave myself, #2 and #3 would undoubtedly be high on the list of why I really hadn’t made that start. The same could be said about starting nearly any creative or physical activity that presents a new challenge. And yet trying new things is what makes life interesting … and has the potential to provide so much personal satisfaction. Those are the new challenges we should embrace, even if #2 and #3 loom large. Maybe especially if #2 and #3 loom large.
Since the original focus of this interesting checklist is running – and since I’ve set quite a few running goals for myself since 2010, I’ll start by practicing using these tips for goal-setting with my own running goals. Since I just turned 76 (Gasp) and I was never a fast runner, just a passionate one, I need to keep #4 in mind – Do you have a chance to achieve it. For example, when I read about a fellow blogger’s goal a year or two ago to run 1000 miles in a year, that turned my crank. That’s my idea of an inspirational goal. However, once I calculated the reality that this translated into about 20 miles a week, every week for an entire year, and once I factored in my arthritic hip that doesn’t always cooperate with my plan to go for a run, I realized that I didn’t have a chance of achieving it, even when some of the running is walking. So, still inspired by the idea, I found out about the Virtual Conqueror Challenge and am now on my second challenge, currently making my way – virtually – around 800 kms (500 miles) of the North Coast of Scotland. Small potatoes for many, but it excites me every time I add another 5 km into my Challenger app.
Now let’s move to a potential challenge to beat all challenges, Everesting. I had never heard of Everesting until I came across Mark B’s blog. He chose it as a personal challenge. I. Have. No. Words. Everesting – which according to the definition in Wikipedia is for cyclists, not runners – is an activity in which a cyclist/runner ascends and descends a given hill multiple times in order to match the elevation of Mt. Everest, 8848 meters. (I include a picture of a cyclist attempting this because, of course, there are no pictures of runners doing so!)
To put that in perspective, for those of you who know my hometown of Fredericton, Fredericton is in fact built on a hill. This is a hill most of us consider to be pretty steep, as shown in this picture, which shows my university stretching up the hill.
So … by my rough calculations, in going straight up Regent Street from Dundonald to Prospect, you cover approximately 2 kms of road distance, with an elevation gain of approximately 100 meters. So, if you wanted to complete an Everesting in Fredericton as a runner (or as a cyclist) you would have to run (or cycle) up and down Regent Street 88.5 times to complete an ascent of 8848 meters!! Oh yes, and I forgot to add, you’re supposed to do it without sleeping in between; it’s a contiguous run! Of course, few runners I know, even the very best young ones, can run up and down Regent Street more than twice anyway. Can you imagine what your legs feel like after the first two descents, never mind your legs and lungs on the ascent? Who thinks of these things? This goal would fail on #4 right off the bat; for most mortals it is unattainable, although apparently not for blogger Mark B! See how useful this checklist is?! That goal would fail quickly and you could move on to another idea. 🙂
Personally, I like all the tips in Mark’s checklist. I think it makes a difference to have something that excites you and that takes you out of your comfort zone, to boldly go where you’ve never gone before! It adds something to your day-to-day life. Thinking about what your next new challenge might be is fun. The planning and execution is often fun and sometimes a little bit scary. But a successful completion is oh, so rewarding. What new challenge are you thinking of for yourself? Does this checklist help you decide?