Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goal Setting 101

We’ll start with a picture:


Got my shoes on. Standing outside. Gotta run right? Well – let’s slow down a bit (no pun intended). Why am I running today? What is my goal? Ever feel like this?

The word “goal” is defined as “the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve and that (when achieved) terminates behavior intended to achieve it.” Hmm. This really means that a goal needs to be (1) achievable (intent) and (2) measurable (otherwise we never terminate the behavior and never can get better). One “goal” I see often while perusing the blogosphere is: “Eat healthy”. Is that really a goal? What does that mean? Eat one fewer French fries? Ten fewer M&Ms? A professionally developed menu? How do you know when you’ve eaten healthier so you can move on to the next goal to make yourself better?

So – to bring everything back to square one – running has become drudgery for me because I have no achievable future state of affairs and plan that involve running. I’m just running. Kind of like just going to work. My goal ceased to be back in March when I completed the L.A. Marathon. I tried later on to set another goal – running a 50 miler come May. But where was the plan to achieve that goal? Is that really achievable in my current state? How am I going to solve this problem?

Setting realistic goals requires two things. First and most important – you need to be honest with yourself. I mean – don’t lose sight of your dreams, but be honest about what you can do. For me, that means I really need to take a step back and figure out if a 50 miler (and here’s the key) by May is realistic. Second – setting goals really requires some introspection. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Really?

Personally, I’ve been thinking for the last month. The honest fact is I *really* don’t enjoy running. It’s hard. It requires a lot of effort and discomfort. I run because it beats the alternatives. But – why am I really doing this? I’m not doing this because I love travel, or crowds, or runner’s high. I’m doing this to lose weight. So – the first problem is Goal #1 is really not running related at all.

Reflecting back on my running history, I had the most success when I was getting in shape to climb Mt. Whitney. It wasn't about PRs or anything. It was about doing something I really love - enjoying the alpine reaches of the Sierra Nevada. Goal #2? Maybe another assault on Whitney?

After a month, one thing is pretty evident now. I’m not being successful in my running because there aren’t any “running” related goals involved. It’s not about running a marathon a month. It’s really to drop weight and get into/stay in shape <<raising eyebrows>>.

So – here are my 2011 goals:

  1. Lose 40 pounds by 12/31/2011. There you go. Achievable (3 lbs per  month). Measurable (40 pounds, needs to be done by 12/31).
  2. Climb Mt. Whitney by Labor Day. Achievable (did it before – it wasn’t easy though. Almost turned around day 1). Measureable (make it to the top, needs to be done by Labor Day).

I know I know. So how does running factor in? Well – that’s tomorrow’s discussion – “Strategies for successful goal achievement”. Thanks for reading and hanging in!


  1. This is great!

    I definitely think goals need to be able to be measured. I learned that in my project management class, I think, but I'm not sure why I always forget it. :)

  2. Great post and great achievable goals! My goal is always the "eat healthy" Is that really a goal? YOu are absolutely right, it isn't specific enough. Thanks for helping me see the obvious! Happy New Year!

  3. I'm guessing that running enters the picture by you running Badwater. Am I right? :)

  4. I think those are very attainable and very realistic goals......but I do hope running is mentioned next....

  5. Glenn,

    Nice! Keep it simple. Good luck with both. I hope to make it up Whitney one day...I get an offer every year from a friend who does it twice (June and September) but I always have stuff planned.

    Happy New Year! See you at LA!

  6. Here is something profound, simple, and I hope taken the right way. This is only put forward as an option in reaching your overall goal - weight loss.

    If you get NO enjoyment out of running, doing the races, the travel to them and all that they are - why bother making ANY running goals or commitments? Doing 15 miles running or walking a week, getting a gym membership and weight watchers membership might be the best approach to your overall goal of losing weight.

    I say all this knowing many who have met weight loss goals, changed eating habits and lifestyles just by doing the above. Without beating themselves up doing/training Marathons. Which less face it - if you do NOT like/love it - why on earth would anyone do it! Running 26 miles is HUGE! It really is and nothing short of that. I would not think about doing it, if I did not love doing all this. Complete waste of time if I did not.

    Just a thought Glenn. Personally, I hope you never stop doing races. I enjoy seeing you at the ones we have done. You're a great guy, and frankly climbing Mt. Whitney sounds great!!! I might join ya. :)

  7. Ok, first I have to comment on the running thing...and then of course I have to comment on WHITNEY!!! HELLO?!?!

    I have followed you through many, many difficult months with running and I know it is not a huge passion of yours and you do it for alternative reasons other than it is big part of who you are. But I have to say this, just because I have seen the smile on your face and read the happiness in your heart when you have performed well running. Running is part of you - it doesn't define you and it doesn't consume you, but I do believe you do like it a wee-bit more than you really think you do! That's just my guess though. :)

    Re: Whitney!! We are IN if you still want to take us. Brendan was just talking about it yesterday and we wondered if it is achievable the last week in March when we are on spring break? Or is that too soon?? That would be our only opportunity to do it until school is out around June 9th-ish. Let me know thoughts!!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR, Glenn! Love your new goals. And I think running will help you achieve #1 :).

  8. Very achievable, very doable, not extreme in the least. I'll have to wait for tomorrow's plan, but I'd say more trail walking, long hikes, with maybe some trail running for extra fitness, but just in the 4-6 mile range.

    If you don't like it, don't do it!

  9. Happy New Year Glenn!! I love your goals, awesome post and really, just saying something like, eating right isn't specific enough...

  10. By the time LA Marathon comes along, I'm sure you'll be well along toward those goals. =)

  11. i'll sign up for those 40 lbs!

    mkay, maybe not 40. i'd have to chop off a leg to get that.

    maybe i'll make a goal to set good goals ;) they do need to be measureable and attainable as you said.

  12. Good point for goal setting! I am still working on mine for 2011 but this is some good food for thought.

  13. my gut impression from your posts, tweets, and videos.. you like running and the people/events/circumstances surrounding certain events, like the LA Marathon, and trail running.. but maybe you just don't like the "distance" or doing the actual miles or training? You also.. seem to like rowing? Maybe more rowing, less running, more trails? I don't know.. I'm at a low in terms of motivation and running right now, so probably not the best source of inspiration.