By Barton Tanner
Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be looking at goal setting and why it is so important in what we do. Goal setting is one of those funny areas that people struggle with. There are 2 forms of struggle when we are goal setting. The first appears to be that we don’t actually set a goal. I would honestly say that in at least 95% of my initial phone conversations with people (male or female), when questioned on their training goals they think that fitness, toning or weight loss are appropriate answers. Often, without knowing you in this phone call, I do not push past this first barrier and think we can overcome it when we get into training. It is important to understand that these subjective answers come from either thinking it is the right response (the reasons why you’re meant to train) or you are trying to put a mirror up – “I have given him an appropriate answer. I don’t actually know what I want to get from my training, but somehow he will know and make me feel much better.” The second reason we tend not to set goals, and this links into the first, is simply because we are scared. We are scared of what people will think (is this a stupid thing to work towards or everyone can already do push ups on their toes so I should just keep it to myself), and we are most prominently scared of failure. The idea of falling short or not achieving is what stops the large majority of people from ever starting.
I have spoken about the importance of being your word and having a positive self-image hundreds of times before (if you don’t feel like it’s been covered we can have a conversation later about it). Really you need to understand these to be able to understand goal setting on any serious level. If you are trying to set goals from a place of trying to fix yourself, you end up focussing so much energy on the problem, that it never ends up going away. Additionally, if you are happy to throw your words away and not hold them as the single most important formative factor in your future reality, it will become incredibly tough to ever actually achieve anything.
So where do I start..? Start with your why. To borrow the words of Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” This obviously seems extreme. Yet, it is one of the fundamental truths that is not taught about how your mind works. If you connect to your ‘why’, there is no excuse that will get in the way of you achieving it. We have all heard the story of someone really old and sick that has wanted to stay alive for a wedding of their children. That ‘why’ literally gets them to that wedding day and shortly after they pass. When you powerfully connect to your why, there is nothing that can stop you achieving it.
I think the last point for this week is really around not setting the bar too low. If you follow any fitness quotes on Instagram, you’ll always see them saying, “if your goal doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough”. I like to modify this, saying; “the higher you set the bar the more you will achieve, even in failure”. When you commit to something and don’t leave yourself an option out, it is amazing how far you will actually go in your success. Oxfam Trailwalker is such a great place to see this in reality. You see people push themselves so far, through fatigue, pain and everything else. By signing up for 100km on foot these people leave themselves no avenue out. The most incredible thing about it is by being ambitious and going into the unknown, they push themselves further than they ever thought they could go. They unlock a source of strength that they never knew to be there.
So as we come in to the new year and I start to pose questions around your goals or what you want to achieve at training, take some time to think before you answer. This is before what I call the Preparation phase (SMART) of goal setting. I don’t want your answers to be more specific around numbers or abilities. The first thoughts for this week that you should be having around your goals is the ‘why’. Ask yourself why 5 times when you set the goal and see what happens when you try to answer these questions. In order to go through what it is going to take to make your life great and achieve your goal, you must have a strong connection to the aim and meaning in your life – the why!