You need to set better goals: here’s how

You need to set better goals: here's how

Setting big goals is exciting–and so is chasing after them. But rushing your process, for runners, can lead to burnout, injury and overtraining, and can potentially derail your season (with that big goal flying out the window).

It’s OK to dream big, but there’s a safer, more efficient way to set goals by breaking those big dreams down into parts. In his book The Practice of Groundedness, coach and author Brad Stulberg calls this “cultivating a process mindset.” Here’s how to develop your own process-based mindset.

person writing and reflecting
Photo: Unsplash/Green Chameleon

Cultivate a process mindset

Set a goal (any goal, within reason).

Pinpoint the steps to achieving that goal that are under your control. Make these as specific as possible. Running an FKT of the Trans Canada Trail depends on many factors that are not within your control, but your day-to-day training and choices are things you can hone in on.

Forget about the big goal (sorry!) and focus on executing the steps, instead. Stulberg suggests judging yourself only on your level of presence and the effort you’re exerting in any specific moment.

When you slip back into obsessing about that big goal, use that as a cue. Ask yourself what you could be doing in this moment to achieve it. Stulberg says sometimes the answer may be doing nothing, optimizing rest and recovery.

person on mountain top resting
Photo: Unsplash

Focus on the long game

Like most things, a process mindset takes practice, but the rewards are worthwhile. “For most consequential endeavors, long-term progress is less about heroic effort and more about smart pacing; less about intensity on any given day and more about discipline over the course of months, and in some cases even years,” Stulberg writes.

Developing a process mindset is useful not only when working toward a goal, but in helping you recalibrate and adjust if you don’t nail your goal on the first shot. Instead of throwing your goal out the window, go back to the process–what can you tweak? Do you simply need more time?

Stulberg suggests we move toward our goals like world-record marathoner Eliud Kipchoge says he does: “slowly by slowly;” he even suggests pasting those words somewhere as a reminder that progress takes consistent effort over time.

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