Small steps of progress trump a one-off to-do list tick
12 months ago, I couldn’t run to the corner. Not because I hadn’t done it before. I mean, I was fierce competitor during primary school sports days (just ask my year 5 best friend and athletics arch-rival, Lisa). I also completed Sydney’s City2Surf in 2015. But apart from chasing a toddler or two on a scooter, I hadn’t dedicated myself to routine exercise in a few years. Technically four. So, in 2020 I set myself the goal of running the 10km Bridge2Brisbane 2021.
Now, this seemed a lofty goal. But as a professional deadline-juggler for a living, I knew that having an event in the calendar would give me focus. Sure, I could’ve tried to run 10km off the bat on race day. But I knew that to do it well, I needed to start small. Practice, progress, and strengthen over time. Y’know, just like every single health professional will tell you to do. Because it works.
So, not to jump straight to the ending … but, I made it. I belted through that 10km Bridge2Brisbane on a blisteringly sunny morning. With so much time to prepare, it was relatively easy. GASP. Definitely easier than running for 2 minutes without stopping on my first day of training. That nearly broke me. But treating each jog throughout my training (or regular running) as its own chapter helped me get to the end.
And as I plodded the pavement at dusk, during lunch breaks or on weekends, it got me thinking about goal setting. Here’s what I took away from it:
1. Set the goal. Allow for faff time.
Working towards something slowly and surely is enriching. You learn more. You build strength. You collect experiences. Sure, I could’ve starting “training” for the fun run later than I did, but it was a gamechanger giving myself more time. The pressure was off. Life could happen. I didn’t have to achieve a big goal on a whim and hit it. I saw that there is so much more in goal achievement than just the outcome. Do the work.
2. Losing momentum isn’t failure.
It’s human. In fact, dogged determination is a unique trait. It’s not for everyone. So, set mini goals along the way as checkpoints to help you along. Take those little “woohoos” and use them to propel you. Sure, I had weeks where I wasn’t as active as I could be — whether through energy, time or otherwise. But losing momentum isn’t quitting. It’s just that: losing momentum. Period. It gave me the chance to test the goal. Did I really want it? Yep. And on I went.
3. Move to your own beat.
Life is messy. There’s so many things that can cross your path as you move towards your goal that are out of your control. Don’t fight it; embrace it. It’s ok to hit pause when your energy is being pulled elsewhere. Rest isn’t quitting (‘coz you got faff time right? See point 1). Take the time. Reset. But get back on the horse. Go again when your heart, brain and energy are ready to saddle up.
4. Just keep going.
Whatever barrier you might face, it’s not the end. You’ll find your way in your own time and your own speed. Always keep going.