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Goal Digger

Trust your gut and you’ll set the right goals.

Call me grumpy, but at this time of year it feels like every coach or consultant is trying to tell us how to set better, smarter or more goals. Whether it’s in business, in life or in our running, goal setting has become an industry in itself with beautifully designed diaries, planners and checklists, complete with uber positive quotes to motivate us even more. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a pen that tells me to ‘Think Big’ and a planner that asks me what I am grateful for once a week, but why do we need all of this stuff to set a goal and stick to it?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that there is now so much choice – so many goals to choose from, and so many races to run. Whether it’s a new trail running series, the city marathon festival or the ultra that your mate did last year, the list is seemingly endless. The world of running is ripe for exploring more than ever before, but it can be confusing and overwhelming to even know where to start. Rather than being a straightforward task, setting your next running goal now feels a bit like logging on to Netflix and spending the next hour trying to decide what to watch, before giving up and going to bed. We get paralysed by all the choices that we become paralysed by it and end up doing nothing.

Like many other runners, I recently sat down to write down what I think my health and fitness goals for 2018 should be. I initially wrote down a couple of things, got distracted, and had to repeat the process a week later, where I wrote down the exact same two goals again. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that it couldn’t be that simple and added in another few goals for good measure. I secretly knew I wouldn’t achieve those extra goals, but at least my list now looked pretty impressive. It was only on the third try, after writing the same two instinctive goals down again, that I stopped and realised that they were actually enough. Those were the real goals that I cared about and the task of goal setting was done.

In my experience, the best goals are the ones that you feel so strongly about that you don’t need any help in deciding. They scare you when you think about how much training lies ahead, your stomach turns just a little bit when you think about lining up at the start and you get goosebumps when you see yourself crossing the line. These are the goals that are strong enough to get you out of bed in the morning and keep you disciplined and consistent in your training.

As a running coach who works with recreational runners and their goals on a daily basis, it is really easy to spot the goals that create that type of motivation and discipline – and the ones that don’t. I recently looked back at the runners I coach who have been successful in achieving their goals, to see if I could spot any interesting trends. I didn’t have to look too hard before I saw that those who achieved their goal only had one clear goal at a time. They were focused, and cared enough to sacrifice other things. On the flip side, the runners who were constant goal jugglers didn’t perform as well. The difference was clear.

So for the year ahead, don’t be tempted like I initially was to add more mediocre goals to make your list look better. Why not trust your gut to go for just that one goal? One that makes you smile and scares you just enough to instill discipline. If the runners I coach are anything to go by, you are far more likely to succeed and it may just give you the ride of a lifetime along the way.

As for my goal? I’m entering the world of ultra long distance triathlon. I’m petrified, uncomfortable – but smiling – and excited by the prospect. The real job of ‘doing’ now begins…

Chris White is a running coach and founder of GoRun Australia, which is making a healthy, positive difference to Australians through running.

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