I’ve had it put to me to write about what it means when you set out to achieve something but don’t end up achieving it.
Great topic, and one that I have some strong opinions on.
I’ve made goal setting and helping people achieve their goals something that I do for a living. I like to think that I’m actually pretty good at it too. Sometimes though, I work with people to help move them toward their desired destination and something intervenes, happens (or doesn’t happen) and that destination is not reached. What follows is sometimes disappointment, feelings of failure or defeat, or even a lessening of self-worth.
Obviously not everything we plan and prepare for in life goes our way, it sometimes seems that this is a more reliable fact than just about any other. What we do however, when the dice doesn’t roll in our favour is incredibly important, maybe even more than we think.
There are a number of factors to consider in this situation… Firstly, was the goal a realistic one for you at that time? I don’t mean was the goal something within your current capabilities – generally we put too many restrictions and limitations on ourselves, and are capable of FAR more than we give ourselves credit for. What I’m talking about here is, was the goal something you realistically had the time to prepare for properly? Did you have a ton of other stresses in your life that were taking your energy and attention away from your goal? Were you injured and was that injury affecting your ability to train appropriately?
While the “was the goal a realistic one for you?” question is an important one, I don’t like to think of it as a deal breaker. We don’t have to look very far to find a plethora of examples of people who have risen above seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve things that would have been considered unrealistic for them. When a less than ideal situation is getting in the way of the perfect preparation, it is only the right motivation and inspiration that is required to overcome it.
Another factor to consider is the way the scenario played out on the day. Did you stick to your plan? Was the plan thorough enough? Did the plan account for the variables? DID YOU EVEN HAVE A PLAN? With longer distance running, often it comes down to a nutrition or hydration issue that can make the difference. So many people I know have made the fatal mistake of trying something new in a race or not testing their food and hydration source in training. Making assumptions about things is the anti-thesis of having a plan.
The next question is, did you get the right advice and direction in the creation of your plan? If you are new or relatively inexperienced in something, or if you are wanting to step up and increase your ability to exceed your current achievements, then having the right person in your corner can make the world of difference. Sometimes that person is a trusted friend who has already trod the path you are setting off on, sometimes it is a professional with experience and knowledge who knows what it takes. Sometimes (unfortunately) it is every single person who has an opinion and wants to give it to you… It can be all too tempting to listen to Tom’s advice on footwear because he can run a fast 10k, Dick’s advice on hydration because he read an article about it and Harry’s advice on a training schedule because he once worked as a Personal Trainer. It is far better to get your information from a source (or sources) that has proved its reliability. One of the beautiful things about our running community is its willingness to share. So rather than ask for advice on everything from everybody, ask everybody WHO you should seek for the BEST advice on what you need. The depth of knowledge in our circles is immense.
Lastly, what you do when you don’t hit your target is the most important thing. Research has demonstrated that people who recognise that they didn’t achieve their goal, but can let that go, review where things went wrong and move forward refocussed and positive, are far more likely to achieve in the future than those who get down on themselves for not completing the task. Beating yourself up, making excuses as to why you didn’t quite get there, blaming others or getting frustrated simply gets in the way of your future success. We are all ultimately responsible for our achievements. It is foolish to think that everything we work towards will be achieved, but it is also foolish to think that we aren’t good enough to achieve it either. Anything is possible, it just comes down to how bad you want it, and how hard and how long you are willing to chase it.
I’ll leave you with this thought… If you are training for a race and you have worked hard for months in the lead up, you’ve dedicated yourself, you’ve stretched your boundaries and you’ve improved your health, your fitness and your mental fortitude; then what happens on race day matters very little. You have done the hard part, the bit that matters. If you don’t achieve the race outcome you wanted, don’t forget about all the other rewards you have achieved in the process of simply getting to that start line. Are you not a better person for the experience? Of course.
If you are looking for someone to help you with setting goals and creating a plan to achieve them, Brewsters Running offers this service.
For running coaching and training advice, email Shaun – firstname.lastname@example.org
For nutrition plans and advice, email Chris – email@example.com