The Importance of Setting Clear Goals

The Bend in the Road

This blog is still so new, but it is already weird to look back on pieces I wrote months ago.  Below is one of the first things I wrote when this blog existed only on my computer and on numbered word documents.  This was number 6.  For no reason in particular I haven’t posted it until today.

Keep On Running

I have been a runner for over 20 years.  As a runner I know that moving through the turn or bend whether it be on a track or outside on a path or road is harder than running on the straightaway.  The bend in the road forces me to change my stride, adjust my pace, and to focus only what is right in front of me.  It feels like more work to be in the bend.  It isn’t until I move past the bend in the road and reach the straightaway that I am able to regain my stride and my pace, and focus on what lies further down the road.

Running Towards Something

As I run, it makes all the difference to see what lies ahead. There is something about looking forward into the distance knowing what is about to come.  Without the ability to see further down the road, whatever that road may be for you, you end up feeling less in control and more emotionally charged in a negative way. The work feels endless.  Frustration and stagnation is likely to set in.

With a clear picture of what lies ahead it is easier to maintain focus, pace, and a positive attitude.  Looking down the road into what is your future allows many things to become possible.  Without it, you will forever be working through that bend in the road with much less certainty as to what lies ahead.

Making Benchmarks

In order to effectively see what is in your future, you need to set goals and benchmarks.  The frequent monitoring of what you are seeing and doing today will let you know if you are on track or falling behind.  Setting goals and benchmarks in specific areas of your life is the only way to know if you are getting ahead or falling behind.

Setting benchmarks also allows you to take some emotion out of your journey whether you are on track or not.  There is less of a grey area; it’s either yes or no to being on track.  Are you on the straightaway or stuck in the bend?  By establishing measurable and realistic goals  you can track the important benchmarks that will allow you to track your progress.  This is vitally important to your success.

“With a clear picture of what lies ahead it is easier to maintain focus, pace, and a positive attitude.”

Goals can be used to track short- and long-term accomplishments.

Some Specifics:

Short Term Goals Provide a Great Deal of Focus and Motivation

On Fitness:  For me, I usually have a fitness goal of no longer than 3-4 months long.  This is my way of keeping things new and fresh.  I also adjust how I train from one period of the year to the next.  For example, I train differently in the winter than I do in the spring.  In January, I have clearly stated goals for what I wish to achieve by 1 April.  I then establish a new set of goals to get me into the summer.  The establishment of 3-4 month fitness goals provides a great deal of focus to my training.  Knowing in the dark of winter that I only have a few more solid weeks of training before the spring is a huge motivation to work hard.

And those summer race personal records are achieved because of all the hard work in the dead of winter!

The Longer the Goal the More Important Tracking and Benchmarking the Achievement Is

On Finance:  I have been tracking my finances since before I graduated college.  My financial goals allow me to monitor my progress on the road to retirement.  For this long-term goal I have a benchmark established for every year between now and well past retirement age.

Of course, with any long term goal there are times when the benchmark may need to be adjusted up or down to ensure a REALISTIC benchmark is being measured against.  The more accurate and realistic the better.

The Stock Market Will Eventually Correct Itself

Setting benchmarks will provide a great sense of focus and clarity in times of trouble.  Thanks (or no thanks) to the 24-hour news cycle, it is easy to be convinced one way or the other that things are GREAT or things are BAD.   When the stock market is up, down, or sideways, I look towards the benchmark.  Am I ahead or behind the benchmark?

As I stated earlier, “Without the ability to see further down the road, whatever that road may be for you, you end up feeling less in control, more reactionary, the work feels endless, and frustration can set in.”

The benchmark will allow you to make a more rational assessment of where you are on the way to hitting your goal with less emotion behind it.  If you are ahead or behind, you will know exactly by how much.

What about you?  Are you stuck in the bend or are you running down the straight away with your eyes on the horizon?