Do you ever get so caught up with the idea of a goal that you forget about the execution of it? I remember when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon in October, I was invigorated about all of my future running goals. In fact, even weeks beforehand, I was certain. My next goal was to run a marathon. And the same day after finishing my half, I might have even thrown out the words, "Maybe I'll even run an ultra." Whoa, there. For someone who had never run farther than 13 miles, that was pretty insane.
As with running and in life, I have a tendency to get ahead of myself. The same is true for writing. Around the same time I decided to run a marathon, I also decided I'd like to start freelance writing with the intention of eventually transitioning to professional writing full time.
But you'd think if you want to run a marathon, you'd increase your running, right? And if you want to write professionally, it might be helpful to write at all.
However, in my excitement for how great accomplishing both would feel, I created a complete sense of paralysis. I could tell how hungry I was for success in both running and writing, and it scared me.
I focused on the enormity of each undertaking, all of the work required, for this year and all of the future years, and it dwarfed the day to day tasks. And so I did nothing. Or at least, very little.
Facing effort down
"You mean I have to actually do work to accomplish a goal?"
It's not that we're lazy, it's just that we're scared. Scared of doing it "wrong," scared of looking like a beginner, scared that we're not capable.
You know what though? You are capable! Yes, you.
Perfectionism is the death of accomplishment. Sometimes you might look funny or do the wrong action, but that's inevitable. That's how goals get accomplished. It's generally messy along the way and hardly as glamorous as the happy endings make it seem.
I know better (I think we all do), but I figured if I wasn't running 15 miles every weekend, my runs weren't worthwhile at all. And if I wasn't writing novel-length prose, then I'd better not write at all.
But if you run at all, you are a runner. And if you write, you are a writer.
Since I was doing neither, I was at a complete standstill for furthering either of my passions. Time was passing me by and I was stupidly staring my goals in the face and not doing anything about either of them.
The two-step, not-so-secret sauce to goal-smashing? It's not sexy. Consistency and structure. Create a structure to hold yourself accountable and consistently put in the work.
If you don't know how to create the right structure for your goals, someone out there does. Or just wing it, try something out, and then try something else if that doesn't work. But those are the most basic nuts and bolts of goal-smashing: consistency and structure.
Before this afternoon's snow started coming down, the pup and I embarked on a quick one mile run this morning to burn off some energy. So far, I've run every day this month (this year even--which is not too hard since we're only three days in) and I plan on doing it every day for the duration of January. The reason for this is #writeandrun31. The premise of #writeandrun31 is to just do two things every day for all of January: write and run. How much writing and how much running is a personal choice.
The daily rituals are truly making all the difference in how I feel about my running and writing progress right now. I've kept my daily requirements purposefully very small: running a minimum of one mile and writing at least 100 words per day. The reason I've limited my running and writing goals is twofold: so I have absolutely no room for excuses and as a reminder that small daily progress makes a bigger overall impact than large spurts of accomplishment every once in a while.
Now #writeandrun31 is giving me the perfect amount of structure for my running and writing. I've already written more and run farther in the last three days than the whole of December. I've written about 1,800 more words than my benchmark for the last three days, but moreover, I'm elated that I've written anything at all.
Sure, I felt bleary-eyed and bedraggled yesterday morning, heaving my weary body out of bed to go run in the freezing dark, on icy snow, before work. And there's always the temptation to procrastinate.
But it's been worth it already. As long as I just take it one day at a time, one word, one step, one mile, 2015 is going to be my year to write and run into the sunset.
So my question for you is, what are the areas of your life that could benefit from structure and consistency? Have you been avoiding your goals because of the daunting prospect of having to "do it all"?
What is one small action you can take toward your goal today?
Great, now go do it.