Your goal is not to achieve your goal. Your goal is to become the kind of person who achieves the goals you want.
This is probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned over the last 24 years working with people, helping them achieve their goals.
We’ve all been there: gone after a goal like getting fit, losing some weight, doing Couch to 5k and much more, achieved it but then stopped and before long, lost everything we’d achieved and ended up back where we started. In some cases, gone even further back!
This was me after I ran my first marathon.
It’s not that we lack the motivation for our goals or to maintain what we have achieved. It’s more because we see our goals as the pinnacle. When you look at your goal as the pinnacle, there’s nowhere really to go beyond it and the desire we had for the goal went the minute we achieved it and that’s why we stop.
What if there was a way where we could achieve our goals, achieve even greater ones that we can’t comprehend just yet, do this consistently for years without losing motivation or ending back at square one? I want to tell you about 3 lessons I’ve learned from marathon running that will help:
  1. Start with the finish in mind
  2. Make it a way of life
  3. Follow the process

Start with the finish in mind

I want you to close your eyes and imagine you’ve just achieved your goals right now and be aware of what your world looks like. What are the things you’re doing? Where are you? The people you’re with, the clothes you’re wearing, the energy you have, the relationships you’re having with other people, how you feel, how you feel about yourself. Go into as much detail as possible.

Hold onto those thoughts for a few moments then write down everything you’ve just imagined. THIS IS YOUR GOAL.

This is a very powerful exercise as you’re gaining clarity on the person you wish to be, how you see your future self, how you identify as yourself. You now have a much more meaningful and tangible goal to aim for and the changes you need to make in order to get there, might now seem a lot easier. Your original goals may also seem smaller or less important than they were. They’re effectively stepping stones, byproducts of the journey you’re on.

When working with runners who are training for a marathon, they all just want to get round it. They will do, there’s no reason for them not to do it. Instead, I encourage them to think more about how they want to feel when they cross the finish line, the story they want to tell people of what they did and how they did it. This creates a much better goal to aim for. They’re not running 26.2 miles, they just happen to be running 26.2 miles to create the story they’ve imagined for themselves.

When you know what you want your life to look like, the person you wish to be, you can then work back the way to create the steps to get there.

Make it a way of life

The hardest part is often getting started. Where to start? How to start? Also, how do we fit all these changes into our already busy schedules? When we think about our goals as pinnacles and see ourselves as starting at the bottom, the size of the task ahead can feel overwhelming.

The easiest way to make the changes to get to where you want to be is to make them part of your daily routine. Adjusting what you already do rather than adding more to improve your life.

You’re not trying to fit your goals around your schedule, you’re making them part of your schedule. The other thing to know is that YOU DO NOT NEED TO MAKE BIG CHANGES ALL AT ONCE. This is where we often fail when life gets in our way, which it often does.

In order to get started, we need to find the first change. To make the change stick, we need to make it feel easy to do. When we start with an easy change and succeed, this breeds confidence and we can work on harder tasks later. When you look back at your vision, you might notice the areas you want to improve are centred around mindset/how you feel, diet, exercise and rest.

The next step is to pick one change from each area that will be easy for you to practice today. This can be something as simple as acting as if you are the person you wish to be. This can help get even greater clarity on your future and make your journey easier. It could be to go to bed a little earlier so you can get a better night’s sleep. It could be to go for a walk, possibly around a local park. Eat slower at your next meal, put your fork down and chew your food more. Drink more water.

These probably don’t sound like much, or require a huge amount of effort, but doing one, two or even try all of these today, could make a massive difference if you were to do them every day for a week or two. 

Follow the process

The most important bit! This is also where the magic happens. Running a marathon isn’t about running 26.2 miles at the end of the first week. The only time you tend to run 26.2 miles is on race day.

The first part of the training plan is really about getting into a routine, getting your body used to running on a regular basis. Frequency and consistency are probably more important in the early stages than the distances you run or the speed you run at.

The same applies for you on your journey. Within a week or so of practicing these changes, you’ll soon notice that you’re doing some, if not all, automatically. This is a great sign! You’re now forming new habits and will probably feel ready to make more changes. You may want to make another easy change or you might feel inspired to challenge yourself a bit more. Go for it!

The biggest hurdle is to overcome the fear of failing. When we follow set plans, like diets, we’re just following a set of rules but not actually learning anything. This is why when we stop, we lose what we gained and end up back where we started.

The way to look at this is that you’re on a journey of self improvement. Your task is to practice the changes you’re making, learn along the way and that’s how you grow. It’s not about trying to do everything perfectly because you won’t. It’s about trying something, potentially not doing it as well as you’d hoped. From here, you can think about what you can do to get a better outcome tomorrow then go try that. When you do this, you can’t fail.

This is the same way you learned how to ride your bike when you were a kid. What you’ll soon discover is that the goals you had to begin with, are no longer outcomes but byproducts of the journey of self improvement that you’re on. The goals you started with will no longer feel like pinnacles but stepping stones to even greater things that you wouldn’t have even dreamed of when you started.

Next Steps

Try this out for yourself. Instead of looking for a quick fix program, go create your own vision of how you want your future life to be. Work out the different steps you need to take to get there. Think about the first change you can make that you can do today then go do it. Did you succeed? If yes, well done! If no, what can you try tomorrow to get a better outcome? Do it all again tomorrow, then the next day and so on.

Let me know how you get on! If you need some help on your journey, click here.