In March 2018, I could run a total distance of 500m without stopping. In November 2018, I ran the NYC marathon.
As individuals, we have this amazing untapped potential that we never challenge ourselves to reach because of self doubts, preconceptions and peers that prefer to see us set conservative goals.
But when it comes to small businesses that want to grow empires like their idols, setting big, hairy, audacious goals is absolutely necessary and my experience in training for and running the NYC marathon is a textbook story of how it is possible.
If you have room on your reading list, add on there the ‘4 Tendencies’ by Gretchen Ruben. This book is a very simple overview of how humans deal with internal and external obligations and how we motivate ourselves to achieve certain things.
It absolutely enlightened me to the world of goal setting and how some people find it much harder to stick to resolutions and complete simple tasks than others. The premise is, that as individuals, we will respond to either external expectations, or internal expectations, or both, or neither. And our tendency towards one of these usually dictates how we respond to things like goal setting or even instructions.
I quickly discovered that I respond to external expectations and instructions exceptionally well. But when it comes to the expectations I set for myself, or my own personal disciplines – I can ignore them completely.
The majority of the population falls in this category as well, they are called ‘Obligers’. When I realised I sat in this category my whole world changed. I realised that to achieve my goals, I needed to create the external expectations around my goals so that I was held accountable to achieving those goals by an external being.
This all happened back in 2018, and it was the year I ran my first marathon.
When I was in my early 20’s, I was told that I would never be a runner. I had very short calf muscles, and chronic compartment syndrome which both weren’t ingredients that befitted running’s elite athletes. But for some reason, I woke up in March and decided that I wanted to run a half marathon. And I was going to do everything I could to make that happen.
And the catalyst for this, was that over coffee, I mentioned it to one of my friends. And for some reason, she wrote it down.
A week later, she called and asked how I was going with my half marathon. (I had done 0 running). And she told me to download an app called, Nike Run Club. Where you could enter your goal, time frame and it will create a running schedule for you (hello, more external accountability).
Long story short, I stuck to that schedule. It was painful, but it broke down my goal in such a way that all I had to do was complete the very next step. It never reminded me of the big goal, just the next step.
Somewhere around the 12km mark, I was getting a bit bored of my Nike app and my accountability was slipping (I’ve noticed I fall victim to this as well) so I decided to join a running group.
And boy do they keep you accountable.
Two weeks before my half marathon deadline approached, I ran my first 21km. It was pretty amazing. Two weeks later I ran my first official half marathon at the City To Surf. A day I will never forget because it qualified me for the New York City marathon.
Less than 4 months later on November 3rd, I flew to New York and completed the NYC marathon. The following year I followed the same training process and ran the Melbourne Marathon.
This entire process taught me a whole lot about setting goals and gave me so much confidence in my ability to reach them. If someone told me at the start of 2018 that I would be running the NYC marathon that year I would never have believed them.
But now, on the other side of those marathons, I see big, hairy, audacious goals with a lot more optimism and enthusiasm than I ever would have before. It has truly been a blessing.
There are a few things I learnt in this process that I took back to my business that I wanted to share:
Firstly, your big goals are absolutely achievable – when you break them down.
Unlike a marathon where the progression from 0km – 40km is quite linear, the path to reaching your goals can be a bit unpredictable and all over the place. But every goal can still be broken down into targeted and measurable milestones, that will help you on your journey from 0 to goal. Verne Harnish in his book, Scaling Up, calls these ‘checkpoints’ on your way up the mountain. If you spend time defining what these could look like, and work towards your very next one, your are well on your way.
Secondly, external accountability (if you’re an obliger like me and 41% of the population) is absolutely essential to reaching goals.
As soon as I realised I achieved more when held externally accountable, I hired a business coach. A business coach (different to a business mentor or trainer) is someone who will work with you to set business goals, and then keep you on track to reaching them. I achieved more than ever knowing I had someone keeping me accountable to my promises and be available to check in with me whenever I lacked enthusiasm or direction.
Lastly, you can shift the mark, but celebrate your wins.
The closer and closer you get to your goal, the less you will want to celebrate when you hit it. You forget how far you have come and those last few steps seem so easy you are already focused on the next goal or checkpoint. This is a trap. I remember getting to a stage where I ran a minimum half marathon distance every weekend and would laugh to myself thinking about how big and scary I thought that goal was at the start.
Make sure you stop and celebrate every milestone and every goal no matter if you are moving the checkpoint. Otherwise you miss out on a lot of dopamine and will end up in a never-ending circle of just shifting goal posts until you die. (dramatic, I know).
I wish that everyone would set a crazy goal like I did and experience the joy and surprise of actually reaching it. It does wonders to your imagination.
To your success.