Goal Setting for Anytime of the Year

from Aspirations of a BA Steeplechaser

I have never really bought into New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because it conjures up images of unrealistic goals which quickly crash and die.  Some people make goals to run for an hour every day when the last time they ran was six months ago.  No wonder gym parking, which were crammed the first few days of the new year, are back to normal traffic by mid-January.

Many companies take advantage of our insecurities, especially at this time of year, and I get sick of hearing how I can lose x amount of weight without changing my lifestyle, simply by buying a magical product.


I really like setting goals, and I like the idea of everyone being prompted to reflect on what they want to accomplish in the next year, all at the same time.

If you are going to make a NYR, let’s talk about how to set some good ones.  Good goals don’t necessarily mean you will succeed at accomplishing them.  As a runner, I set all kinds of goals; some of them are successful and some are a complete failure.  But good goals are realistic changes in our daily life, which improve our well being.  I don’t think adding Sensa to all of my meals would improve my well-being, but I haven’t tried it.

My three pieces of advice are:

  •      Write Outcome Goals and Process Goals.
  •      Tell at least one person about your goal. Even better – have them work towards similar goal.
  •      Put goals in a visible place and check in to see progress.

Outcome and Process Goal-Setting

As a society, we talk a lot more about outcome goals, meaning the exact accomplishment we would live to achieve after hard work.  We learn these goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).  This past year I made a goal of wanting to PR in the 1500m and the steeplechase during the 2016 track season.  I was able to PR in the 1500m by 5 seconds, but fell 10 seconds short of setting a new best in the steeplechase.

What folks often think less about the steps they have to take to achieve outcome goals.  Process goals are about the things you are going to do to set yourself up to achieve your outcome goal.  I came up with a lot of process goals for the 2016 track season including stretching for 20 minutes 5x per week and getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.  These goals were much more flexible for me. They served as guides for how I wanted to live while pursing my dreams.  Getting enough sleep each night wasn’t in and of itself a difficult goal for me, but it was part of what I needed to do to race well.

Tell Someone

I believe I have a fair amount of self-discipline, but it’s funny how easily I can allow myself to binge-eat Oreos when I haven’t told anyone about my goal of eating a balanced diet and minimizing processed foods.  Last year, when I told my family and close friends I was cutting out desserts and alcohol going into the Olympic Trials, it was almost impossible to break my goal because they would have called me out.  Even more helpful was my fiancé was kind enough to join me in my goal, so I didn’t have to watch him enjoying all my favorite things while I tried to stay strong.



Lofty goals can include a lot of moving pieces; I’ve found that when I write down my goals, and put them in a visible place, I’m more likely check in with my process and outcome goals to see how I’m doing.  In the future I want to try setting aside time, maybe twice a month, to reflect on my progress, and if I need to add, tweak, release any goals.

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