“Don’t get too worried if you have to stop and walk…”

I had a message this morning from an old university house mate. She’s just agreed to sign up for a marathon, with wine. It’s the Marathon du Médoc, in France, if anyone else is insane enough to run 26.2 miles with 23 wine stops. She knew I’d run a marathon before, and she wanted my advice on the training program – for the running, not the wine drinking.

Whilst I am a runner, I have very limited technical knowledge – but what I do have is the experience of training for a marathon, and the frustration of going out on a training run and not achieving what it was I set out to do. I’ve had training runs as short as three miles where I’ve had to walk at least two. I’ve given up and cut runs short. I’ve cried. I’ve fallen over (a lot!). However, each time something goes a little bit wrong, I’ll be annoyed with myself for a little while, and then I’ll vow to do better next time.

With this in mind, the best advice I could give her was not to worry if she has to stop and walk for a bit.

This made me think about whether I could apply this logic to anything else. Any of my other goals; whether they’re personal or work orientated.

I thought about my New Year’s Resolutions. I made a list at the end of 2014 of 12 things I wanted to achieve in 12 months, and I stuck the list on my pin-board at home. Buy a new car. Pay off my credit card. Travel abroad. Learn sign language. Solve world hunger. It’s now October, and I’ve probably achieved three things out of those 12. I threw the list away months ago, realising that 2015 probably wasn’t “my year”, and decided 2016 would be better.

I’m not disappointed with myself. Refresh Leadership reminds me that only 8% of people who make resolutions actually achieve them. I’ll try again for the things I want to achieve another time. I remember that it’s ok not to achieve everything I set out to do.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t fail occasionally.

This made me start thinking about two things. Why I failed and what to do next?

I realised I hadn’t met my own goals because I hadn’t set myself SMART goals. The concept of setting SMART Goals isn’t a new idea – it’s been in business for a long time, and there are a number of different versions of the acronym out there. Just Google “SMART Goals” and the top ten results all offer something different. I’ve opted for this version:

Specific What exactly do I want to achieve? What should the outcome be?
Motivating Will working on this goal ignite my passion?
Attainable Is it within my power to reach my goal? It can be a challenge, but not so difficult that it becomes de-motivating.
Relevant Is it meaningful to me? Will it make a difference?
Trackable When do I need to achieve this? How do I measure how well I am doing?

The resolutions I did achieve were the ones that I was passionate about; the ones that I could realistically achieve in 12 months; and the ones that had a clear end objective.

I need to work on setting myself SMART goals, if I actually want to achieve them.

This alone won’t help – sometimes, even setting SMART Goals, I won’t be able to achieve a goal. It might be that the goal is no longer relevant to me – in which case I could try modifying the goal to meet my needs – but it might just be that, despite my best efforts things didn’t go as planned.

In this situation, I need to remember not to be so hard on myself. People are their own worst critic – one of the hardest parts of failing to achieve is that inner monologue – and people will put themselves down, devalue themselves, and become disillusioned.

Obstacles to achieving our goals are inevitable – but it’s not what happens to us that’s important. It’s how we respond.

Sam Thomas Davies writes about how to move on when a goal is missed – and points out that the goal is the outcome you want to achieve at the end point, and people focus on this more than the passion and enjoyment of trying to achieve it in the first place. I’m reminded of a song by Miley Cyrus called “The Climb”, where she sings about it not mattering whether she gets to the top of the mountain or not, it’s all about the journey she’s taking to get there.

It’s important to remember that, even if it’s taking you longer than you expect to get to where you want to be, you should take the time to appreciate any progress – no matter how small that might be – and remember to congratulate yourself for what you have achieved.

Take the time to make your goals SMART, and give yourself the best chance of achieving them. Keep a flexible approach. And, when obstacles come your way, remember that it doesn’t matter if things take you longer than expected.

It’s ok to stop and to walk occasionally, and enjoy the view from where you are right now.

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