Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting to the Starting Line - What Running Taught Me About Goals and Wants

by Karen D. Swim

Lose 10 pounds. Write a book. Have a successful business. Travel the world. Go back to school. Buy a house. Retire early. Become a millionaire. Run a marathon.

Do any of these "wants" sound familiar? We all have them, that desire to do something, be something or go somewhere. We may even have a long list of wants, and we may have titled it "Goals." Why do we accomplish some things on that list while others languish? How do we move our "want-to's" to goals and then accomplishments?

"If the Lord had meant for man to run, he'd have given him four legs or at least made him late for a bus." --Red Smith, Sportswriter

Not many people want to run 26.2 miles just for the sake of doing it. Those who do may not always make it to the finish line. I mean let's face it, what possible sane reason would you have for deliberately choosing to train for months and then spend a perfectly good Saturday or Sunday running for 3 or more hours for a lousy t-shirt and race swag?

Training for and running a marathon requires commitment. If all you have is "want-to" you may not make it to the starting line let alone the finish line. Desire without meaning only has the power to get you started. You may last for a week or two but one day desire will simply not be enough to get you out of bed.

Goals are "want-to's" with meaning on their bones. Ah but not just any meaning will do, it has to be meaningful to you. Do you want to write a book? Run a marathon? Lose weight? Develop a $1M business? Gain 1000 followers on Twitter? Have 35,000 people subscribed to your blog?

All of the above may be perfectly good want-to's but now you must ask: Why? When the goal is achieved, what will that mean to you? Is that meaning so vivid, and so significant that you're ready to make sacrifices to attain it? Do you simply want it because your mentor, husband, friend, or guru said you should want it? What does not attaining it mean to you?

I ran my first marathon because I did not want to die. More specifically I did not want to die too soon or worse live long but with a plastic baggie filled with prescription medication. The image of being old and sick motivated me to change my life. I had never run one mile let alone 26.2 and honestly I didn't even know enough to understand the goal I set. I only knew that I was running for my life. When desire waned, meaning carried me on.

"A goal properly set is halfway reached." -- Abraham Lincoln

This is not a magic formula for attaining goals. It is however a method that will allow you to choose the wants that really matter enough to you to pursue. Will you have challenges? You bet! Is it possible to fail? Absolutely! However, meaning gives you fuel to recover and try again.

As you review your own goal list, have you set goals or desires? Is the goal big enough, meaningful enough and vivid enough to risk failing in order to achieve it? As you look past on past accomplishments, what made the difference for you?

Photo Credit: © Dawn Hudson | Dreamstime.com


Adrienne said...

As soon as I get back from the curise, the membership starts at Curves. My goal is not a set weight amount to lose, but to stick to it and make it work for me.

Words For Hire said...

@Adrienne, thanks for sharing that goal! I have walked that road and would be more than happy to offer support along the journey. Enjoy the cruise!

Ellen Wilson said...

I have a small goal. Trying to get all of my film scanned today.

Sometimes if I look to far into the future it freaks me out and I can't get anything done. Or I get depressed. Or both!

Words For Hire said...

@Ellen, I have often said that If I think too far ahead, I might not get out of bed! It helps me to sometimes just think in tiny time increments, like 15 minutes. I do it with running on those days when I am just not feeling it, or with work tasks that are just overwhelming or boring. It helps!


Anonymous said...

As you know, Karen, I'm in the end stages of my phd which has been a long-held goal for me. Now that it's coming close to the time when that goal will be achieved, I'm having to sit and reassess precisely these questions of what it means to me. And it's a difficult answer to articulate. It's tightly bound up with pride, ambition, career opportunities, skills acquired. But it's also taken on something new, as the achievement of this goal will now allow me to move on to set some new goals, and that's what I'm getting really excited about!

Words For Hire said...

@Amy, after I finish one marathon or any big goal for that matter, I always feel exhilarated but then a little empty. When you've given so much focus to the accomplishment and no longer have that, it's a little like losing a friend. Setting a new goal is a good way to keep moving forward. I am so excited for you, and new doors already seem to be opening for you.


Andre Blackman said...

I've started back into the gym just so I can feel a little better about myself as well as maintain my health. Had a wake up call not too long ago and it's time to stop playing around!

I also have goals about transforming the way we all think about our health in this Digital Age - this post is exactly what I needed to read today!

Words For Hire said...

Hi Andre, I read your post today and it was filled with great information. I got a boost from your post and I'm glad I was able to do the same for you. Transforming health is a topic that definitely resonates with me so please let me know how I can support you in your goals.



Brett Legree said...


This is an incredibly motivating story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

As you say, what is the meaning behind it? I am writing a couple of books as well, but one of them means a lot more to me than the other. I'm not writing it for money. I'm writing it out of love, for my wife.

And running - I'm doing it so that I'll be around to see my kids grow to be adults - not just to get the t-shirt.

Thanks again for the words.

Words For Hire said...

@Brett, I have been inspired by your posts as well as the comments and follow-up comments. It's very lively at 6 weeks! :-) I love what you say about the books. I have professional goals that hold meaning for me but those goals are different from the personal goals. It is interesting that we have passion for both but the motivation to pursue them is quite different. I love the t-shirts but if that's all I was running for, I'd sleep in! LOL!

Thanks Brett for sharing your words of wisdom. I will be following your progress at 6 weeks. I love what you're doing in your space.


Brett Legree said...


Thank you! It has been a lot of fun so far, and to me the best part has been the comments. That's what makes it all worthwhile for me.

:) I'll be reporting on week #2 Saturday morning, it will be interesting to see how far I have gone by then. I'll have a few other 6 week challenges coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Thank you so much for your kind words, Karen.

Talk with you soon - Brett

Words For Hire said...

@Brett, I am going to be reading and now beginning to think of my own 6 week challenge. I'll be sure to share and check in regularly for motivation. :-)


Brett Legree said...


That's *great*! I hope that other people will also try it out, I think it is a good way to go. I know others do a 30-day challenge, but I always liked the 6 week thing (with Tyler Durden watching from the shadows) as it was so much more motivating to me!

I look forward to seeing you succeed at your personal 6 weeks.


PS - one of the next ones I need to do is get myself on a regular posting schedule - ack! I have several in draft, but just couldn't get one out today... oh well, fail early, fail often :)

sexy said...