To Succeed, Stop Setting Goals

Eleanor Fulton paves the way at the 2017  Stumptown Twilight . 

Eleanor Fulton paves the way at the 2017 Stumptown Twilight

I think goals are a trap. Commonly, they are used to focus people's efforts to create a desired outcome. But my experience has proved otherwise. More often than not, goals are left unmet resulting in frustrated athletes, coaches, and fans. 

What are goals? An intention at a point in time. 

However, many goals are arbitrary targets which attempt to answer the question, "what does good enough mean?"

Is "good enough" getting Top-5 at a race? Maybe "good enough" is setting a personal best. Or perhaps making an Olympic team. It falls on each athlete to define.

You may set the goal or perhaps your coach. But I'd argue most goals fail because they do not afford any guidance about what to do once you've reached the stated goal. Making goals is an end, not a springboard.

The typical reaction of achieving a goal is to set the "good enough" bar higher. And this is the trap: at some point, a ceiling is reached or the athlete misses their arbitrary target, stagnates and obsesses on accomplishing the desired goal which can lead to unnecessary increased training, anxiety, insecurity, or a defeated exit from the sport. 

Here's my alternative: set a direction instead. 

What is the difference? Goals are like a map, and a direction is like a compass. 

Once you get to your destination on a map, you have to pause and consider where to go next, while a compass allows to you to keep moving and explore the landscape resulting in richer, renewable experiences.

Chip Kelly, former head football coach at the University of Oregon, offered his players clear direction with his Win The Day philosophy. 

Win The Day is a compass that affords stark clarity in a variety of context. One can be successful or victorious on the track, the field, in the classroom, in the boardroom — almost anywhere.

Once you Win The Day today, there is clear guidance on a direction for tomorrow and the coming weeks, months, years, decades, etc.

Soon winning becomes a daily habit. And when you step to the start line of the most competitive race of your life you are indeed truly ready to win, not settle for "good enough." 

Why? Because in order to get there, you had to win every prior day.


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm

Jonathan Marcus