What I Learned About Goal Setting from Running in Montana
Last week I made up all kinds of excuses as to why I couldn’t run the half marathon I signed up for in November. Having peaked at five miles with a ton of pain, I figured I’d give up. My son encouraged me. He told me, “It’s a mental game, you’re tough. You can do this!” I defended my position. I explained that as we age, cumulative injuries preclude us from performing like a teenager, our heart beat’s slower, recovery takes longer, and I didn’t want to risk permanent injury.
Then, he really got to me. He quoted lines from my book.
“People have two types of mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities and abilities are static. They think there’s a limit to their basic talents and abilities and nothing can change that. They make excuses, and then they feel a deep urgency to prove their positions to others.”
“You need a Growth Mindset,” he demanded. “Don’t blame external factors for your lack of success. You can do this. Start with your mental game. You wrote the book!” The next day, I started my five-mile run on a tree-lined path along the river. (We were vacationing in Montana). It was two and a half miles to the road, five miles round trip.
I felt strong, listening to 80’s classics like Born to Run and AC DC’s Highway to Hell. Every time my legs felt weak, I pictured my son telling me, “It’s a mental game”. I imagined I was a bystander, my legs separate from me doing the work. As I finished the fourth mile, I realized today’s the day. I can beat my personal best. Today, I can go another mile, six in all.
So, after completing the five-mile round trip, I turned around to run another half mile before turning back around to complete six total. And then something happened…I didn’t stop. I ran and ran. I was in the zone. I thought back to every major goal I’ve hit in my life. I visualized what success felt like, the small pain in my calves making me stronger… and I kept running. I made it another two and a half miles to the road for the second time and then turned back. At ten miles, I kept going down the hill and through the town back home.
I greeted my son at the door and handed him my phone with the Health App open that showed this:
That day, I was proud and happy, but more importantly, I learned a few important lessons:
#1: Excuses Bear a Heavy Cost
An excuse starts as a protective measure; it shields us from discomfort. Excuses save our pride, keep our ego from being punctured, and allow us to flee pain and embarrassment. Then we lay another excuse on top of the first. Then another. Excuses protect us like a coat of armor. The problem? They bear a heavy cost. You can’t live a full life while you wear them.
#2: Growth Necessitates Pain
Just as an athlete moves through muscular pain to become stronger, we can move through psychological pain to grow wiser. Learn the difference between recognizing pain and believing that pain must be debilitating. Separate yourself from the pain. Learn to describe it, but whatever you do, don’t be it.
#3: Accountability Accelerates Performance
Goals are much easier when you’re accountable to someone else. Insight and competency do matter, but when you ask people about their greatest accomplishments, the challenges they’ve faced, the obstacles overcome, you will find one thing in common; there was someone on the other end who made it all possible. I couldn’t wait to share my victory with my son. I want him proud of his mother.
Think about your best and worst accomplishments. My guess is it wasn’t just about the market, or the business cycle, or even your skills. Your best and worst accomplishments were also about who was with you and who you did it for.
I’d love you to share your experiences of your greatest accomplishments, and who you did it for. Share in the comments below.