Goal Achievement

Achieve your next big goal: 3 principles learned from qualifying for the Ironman World Championships at 50

What is one of your big life goals? What’s a wild dream you’d like to achieve? When you’re in the midst of peak busyness, you may feel you can’t go after what you desire. Not true! As we head into the last few months of 2021, now is the perfect time to reflect on what you want to accomplish, not only through the end of the year, but in 2022 and beyond.

One of my big goals was to qualify for the 2020 Ironman World Championships. This was a goal I set a few years back, and I achieved it in December 2019, when I placed high enough and competed fast enough to make the cut.  The Championships, held every October in Kona, were postponed one year due to Covid. I have maintained my training plan for this extra year, continuing to prepare for the event.  Over the summer, I learned that the race would be postponed again, now until October 2022.  As I revisit the framework I used to achieve that goal (for yet another year of preparation) I want to share the three principles to help you achieve what matters most to you.

Big goals help you live well

The goals that you choose and the way you approach them impact how well you live your life. Think about a big goal you might be tip-toeing around, but haven’t gone after. What prevents you from accomplishing it? Keep this in mind as I go over these three main principles to make big goals easier:

Principle 1:  Admit to your big goal

Define what success means to you

Success begins with pausing to articulate the wild goal you have in mind. Research shows that when you state your goal out loud and tell someone else, you significantly increase the chance of accomplishing that goal. A big part of pursuing a goal is the idea of challenging your own limiting beliefs.

What’s getting in the way of accomplishing something that’s important to you?  Rather than putting limitations on yourself or your abilities, ponder the possibilities. Then, try writing them down. What are the things you wish you could do? Tell someone. It can be very liberating and this “admitting” is a powerful first step.

For triathlons, I thought “maybe someday I’ll do an Ironman,” but it seemed impossible. How could I do a 140-mile race? But, I had some extra motivation because of the unfortunate death of a friend in my age group, which was caused by poor self-care. It was the catalyst for me to explore the possibility. I competed in an Ironman race to see if I could finish. When I did, I was so glad I gave it a shot, rather than not taking a chance due to a fear of failure. Just finishing was a win! The only way to lose would have been not trying something I really wanted to do. I’d rather complete half of the things on my bucket-list and fail trying at the other half than not give them a chance at all. After all, most of the joy is in the experience of the journey. Finishing that race inspired me to take a bigger leap, and try to qualify for Kona.

Shape your own destiny

Part of this Admit step is to help you shape your own destiny.  If it’s not clear what your goal is, you can end up anywhere; then you’re relying on luck rather than choice. For me, deciding on my first Ironman was a little scary because I had no idea how to train, let alone finish. I tried to put a plan together as best I could, but found out quickly that I didn’t know much about training. That was a powerful lesson in itself. This realization made me seek out a qualified coach who’d been through this with others.

It’s okay not to know because you have the power to learn and to find the guidance your need.

(For help on determining your goal, we invite you to download this Wealth & Life Goal Discovery Chalkboard that we use with our clients to help define short and long term goals that their financial plan will support).

Principle 2:  Commit to the plan of achieving your goal

Many people come up with big goals, but fewer get into action around making them happen. There’s research that shows people who excessively dream about a goal are less likely to accomplish it. Some who are over-doers in one area of their life may be under-doers in another. They “over-dream” and don’t know how to make it happen. Or, they simply do not commit.

The Commit principle is not just about committing to the outcome (“I will achieve this goal”), because that’s not always controllable. It’s about creating a good plan and being a student of whatever game you’re in. That game could be a sport, a business idea, or a relationship. The key is to stick with the plan and have perseverance because committing includes not giving up when it becomes challenging. Sometimes people who are struggling with following their plan are going through the hardest part and are just about to have a learning or a physical fitness breakthrough, and they stop too soon. Commit to the plan, since it’s the plan that creates the outcome.

Prepare and make things easier to accomplish your goal

I learned through my coach that breakthroughs in fitness and strength don’t come from the training, but through the recovery and rest. You have to keep the balance and give yourself a break so you can play the long game.  Whether it’s sports, business or relationships, the rest component is crucial. How can you do your best work if you’re burned out? Building recovery into your strategy and plan will get you farther, and you’ll enjoy it more!

A key part of this process utilizes design thinking so you can make it easier and more possible to overcome inertia. For example, when I know I am getting up early to train, I make sure I’m prepared the evening before with all my gear laid out for the next morning. I also keep a training bag in my car so I can take advantage of spontaneous opportunities for a run (e.g. when my daughter is warming up for a soccer game). Making it easier is key, and this preparation eliminates resistance. Our biggest barriers are often ourselves (especially when trying to get out of bed!).

“Capitalize on free speed”

There’s a concept in triathlons, cycling and other sports called “free speed” where technique, strategy, aerodynamics and smart fueling produce a faster outcome at the same level of effort. How can you get farther with the same amount of energy? Being successful and breaking through isn’t all about brute force. Sometimes it’s about getting strategic and finding ways to make it easier so you can have the outcome you desire.

Principle 3:  Submit

This final principle is about letting go and enjoying the journey, once you have that plan in place. Letting go doesn’t mean you stop trying. Rather, it means getting out of your own way, allowing yourself to let the plan have its best chance to happen, and adapting to surprises and circumstances as they happen. The best plans allow for a range of acceptable outcomes, vs. a binary win/lose.

Allow yourself to go for the goal even if you’re afraid you won’t achieve it

During my first 6 months of training for the Ironman qualifier, I did not fully commit and train to my fullest.  Why? Ironically, I was afraid I would fail. I somewhat unconsciously figured that if I did fail, I had an excuse. I realized that I’d never achieve my goal with that kind of thinking, so I went “all-in” with my commitment and submitted to the experience. The result: I did a race in Argentina just before the pandemic started, achieving the race of my life and qualifying.

It’s easier to submit to your own plan when you have a good one that you feel confident about. That’s where a good coach or advisor comes in, whether it’s for sports, finances or business. Sometimes you just need another’s shoulders to stand on who have gone before you and can guide you through the challenges.

In the end, I feel fortunate to have qualified and to be able to share with you the lessons from my journey. I hope in some way, shape or form it helps you live your best life.

As for my race plan, I am regrouping and recommitting to my training now that I have another year to prepare for the race in October 2022.

At The Advisory Group, we strive to deliver life-changing advice that enables you to pursue your big goals with confidence. Our financial planning process uses Wealth & Life strategy to align your money with your life goals.  No matter what it is that you want to achieve, we can work with you to see how your resources can support you as you pursue your ideal life.  If you want perspective on the possibilities you are considering for your future, set up a complimentary consultation.  There is no time like now to start admitting what you want from your life, and for others. 

The information provided herein is for informative and educational purposes only. The use of hyperlinks to third party websites is not an endorsement of the third party. Third party content has not been independently verified. To understand how this content may apply to you, please contact a financial advisor.

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