The Importance of Setting Fixed Goals to Achieve Results

Training Sunrise
One of the benefits of Super Spartan training is seeing photo opportunities like this early in the morning
I have to say that I’ve not always been a big believer in setting goals. When I was younger goals weren’t important, it was all about the here and now. I couldn’t or didn’t want to think about planning things ahead of time and if I thought something was too hard to accomplish I probably didn’t try. I’ve grown up since then and now I do believe in setting goals, but my problem has been that I sometimes set floating goals, not fixed goals. I describe a floating goal that doesn’t have a hard end date or set time length for which to achieve the goal, isn’t clearly defined or concrete, and clearly has no consequence for missing it. I also define “floating” goals mostly as concepts or ideas that you generally want to progress towards but don’t want to measure. While I believe that there should be flexibility in setting goals, if all of your goals are “floating”, you might find that you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. Signing up for the Super Spartan Race in September 2013 is teaching me the value of setting fixed goals.

If you’ve never heard of it before, the Spartan Race is “the global leader in Obstacle Racing since 2005, designed by seven insane ultra athletes and a Royal Marine.” You can find out more about the race here, but in a nutshell it’s a brutal obstacle course race that will ultimately test your physical ability and your will. It’ll be painful, grueling, dirty, tiring, a big challenge, but most important right now is that it’s a fixed goal. So here’s what I’ve learned (in no particular order):

Make your goal concrete
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes goals are just concepts or thoughts. For example, one of my goals was to get back in shape. While it’s a noble goal, and it sounds concrete, it’s rather vague. There’s no measurement and time frame for this goal. Getting back in shape can almost mean anything from dropping a few pounds to being more active. Now that I’ve joined the Spartan Race I have a hard deadline to meet. If I don’t start training for this event it will be incredibly painful to complete, and I would be putting the completion of the race in jeopardy. Plus I’m doing the race with a team of people and I would hate to be the one holding them back. Having this race as a goal also forces me to start training now, and hard. I’m not going to be able to just run around a track a couple of times and call it a day. It’s going to take a lot of running and a lot of other physical workouts to be prepared for this race. Have a concrete goal that you can measure with a fixed end date or time frame, so that you stay motivated to keep working towards it.

Challenge yourself, but be realistic
Sometimes we set goals that are too easy to attain, and while it might feel great to have reached those goals we realize afterwards that we could have done so much more. Sometimes we set goals that are impossible to attain, and when that happens it’s easy to become discouraged and unmotivated because we either can’t hit them. We might even sabotage ourselves from the beginning by not wanting to work towards a goal we cannot meet. The Super Spartan Race is going to be very hard to complete, and my goal is to complete the race, not to set any records. I understand that I am not in any physical condition to complete the race at the moment, but by September I plan to be. But while I plan to be in such a condition to finish the race, I realize that I will not be an elite athlete by this time so trying to compete to finish in one of the top spots would be very unrealistic. Challenge yourself when you set a goal. Make yourself work hard to meet a goal, but be realistic.

Slow and steady wins the race
Ok, so I ripped this last one off from the “Tortoise and the Hare”, but I’m sure I’m not the first to do that. It would be easy for me to want to dive into physical training and go all out right away in preparation for this race, and that would be foolish. It would be foolish because I would most likely hurt myself because I haven’t been as physically active as I should be. My body isn’t ready for full tilt workout and cardio sessions every day. It’s something that I have to gradually and consistently get into. It’s like people who say that they need to go on diets so they decide to cut out all sugars and carbs all at once, only to have a snack later on in the day and feel like a failure. The reality is that I’m not going to become extremely physically fit overnight, just like how I’m also not going to lose 10 pounds overnight either. So when you set a goal, keep in mind that it’s going to take time to achieve it. And if you can turn working towards your goal into a routine by consistently working at it, you will achieve it. This is another reason why it’s beneficial to set a goal with a fixed time period or end date.

So those are three things that I’ve learned so far about goal setting thanks to this Super Spartan Race. Setting fixed goals, instead of moving targets, will help you achieve the results you want. I’d love to hear what you think about these three things, so please feel free to comment here and share. Also I’d like to know how you go about setting goals, so please share those thoughts and ideas as well. Oh and if you’re curious about how my training is going, I will be posting updates here. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook too, because I’m sure I’ll be sharing there as well.