How do You Eat an Elephant?

Happy New Year, Killer Bs!

Are you setting any New Year’s Resolutions this year?  I totally am.

I didn’t always.  In fact, there were many years where I went with the half-hearted, “I’m going to try to drink more water this year and maybe be nicer to people”-style resolution.  You can imagine how well that went over, especially seeing as how I still struggle to drink enough water every day.

But this year, I have set myself some HUGE goals (I greatly prefer the word “goals” over “resolutions,” though for all practical purposes they mean the same thing), which I talked about the other day in a vlog I posted on YouTube.

What I didn’t talk about in the video, though, was actually the most important piece of information:  How in the world I am going to make these enormous goals actually come to fruition.  Because just throwing a goal out there is all well and good, but unless I know how I’m going to get there, it’s not going to happen.  I might as well be driving to a foreign country without a map.

So, how am I going to make my goals a reality?  By following these principles:

Plan out all the steps, or at least as many as I can

For my running goals, this is super simple, and something I have a lot of experience with, after so many years of running and racing.  Case in point, the marathon I’ve signed up for in March, which I want to run in less than four hours.

In order to get there, I know that I’ll have to run a lot of miles and some of them will need to be pretty fast.  I’ll need to eat well, sleep well, recover well and cross-train well.  I’ll need to train in similar conditions and on similar terrain.  I’ll need to prepare my mind with positive affirmations and self-talk.  I’ll keep track of how many miles I run in my shoes so I can replace them when they’re worn out, and I’ll make sure I have something appropriate to wear for the weather conditions.

I’ll track my daily and weekly mileage with an eye to building up mileage while at the same time minimizing my risk for injury, which means I need to plan for some heavy volume training weeks as well as low volume weeks.  I’ll count out how many weeks it is before race day and figure out my weekly long run distances.  With consistency being a key component of training, I’ll need to prioritize my long runs over (nearly) everything else for those several months.  Since I’m a mom and a wife, I’ll cross-check everybody else’s activities to see if my long runs can happen on Sundays as planned or if I’ll need to schedule them earlier in the week or later in the day.  And beyond all that scheduling and preparing, I’ll need to actually run.

*whew*  Were you counting?  That’s twenty different actions I’ll need to take to get me to marathon day.  And those were just things I thought of off the top of my head just now, there might be more.

Sometimes with goal setting, I think a lot of us fall into that whole, “If I can dream it, I can do it” mentality, which is not a good plan at all.  This is what I did with last year’s business goal, which was to grow my YouTube channel to 5,000 subscribers.  I fell short of that goal by quite a bit, and upon reflection, I’m pretty sure I know why.

First, the goal was basically just a shot in the dark, with no research or data to back it up.  On January 1, 2015, I had less than 1,000 subscribers.  Aiming for 5,000 was audacious, to say the least, and honestly based on… nothing.  I mean, 5,000 just sounded cool.

Second,  I had absolutely no idea at all how I was going to get there.  Compared to the 20-point checklist of running a single marathon, my list for how I was going to get 5,000 subscribers looked like this, “Uhhhhh…  post workouts and talk about them on Facebook?”  Not exactly a sound business plan.

Third, and probably the biggest problem, was that the goal itself was meaningless.  Subscribers are awesome (obviously, and thank you if you are a subscriber!), but that number is not how I make money.  YouTube pays me based on Watch Time, which is exactly what it sounds like:  how much time people spend watching my videos.  Making a goal that actually furthers my business plan is a much better bet.

So, this year’s business goals – in addition to the one I mentioned in the video of earning 10,000 subscribers – are a lot more – well, they’re not necessarily more realistic  🙂 –  but I’ve done a lot more research and have a LOT more in-depth plan for how I intend to grow this year, rather than the “wishing and hoping” method I’ve employed in the past.

Keep the goals in plain sight

I’ve heard this advice before, but until 2015 had never tried it.  And now, I HIGHLY recommend it!

On a whim last December, I sat down with one of the many, many notebooks I keep around the house (seriously, I have at least five notebooks going at any one time – I’m so old school about writing things down by hand) and noodled out a list of things I wanted to accomplish in a few different areas of my life, along with the steps I would need to take to accomplish them.  Okay, maybe I missed some of the details I would need, but that’s not the point of this segment.  🙂

Not only had I never taken the time to write out my goals before, but I had certainly never been public about my dreams.  I might have mentioned to my husband in years past that maybe I would like to do something or other.  But last year I took that ugly little piece of lined notebook paper and taped it right to the edge of my computer screen, where I spend a good portion of every day.  I looked at those words every.  single.  day this year.  And so did everybody else who lives in my house (my desk is in the living room, and the computer is shared with my husband).  There was no hiding from those goals, no pretending that maybe I didn’t really want them anyway.  Nope.  They were out there, in the public domain, staring me in the face every day.

And, no, I did not meet all of those goals, but I sure did spend a LOT of time thinking about them.  Much, much more time than I would have if I had simply thought of a few resolutions on December 31st and then forgotten them by March.

Having a daily, visual reminder of my goals kept me on target to achieving them.  This, coupled with the research and outlining phase mentioned above, is an unbeatable combination.  Knowing exactly where you want to go and exactly how you want to get there and thinking about that goal every day is the sort of super powerful focus technique that elite athletes and other successful people use.

Think about the big picture, but focus on the daily details

This one might be the toughest of the three, honestly.  Having a big, lofty goal can be overwhelming.  On the one hand, of course that goal is something that you actually want, but on the other hand, big goals are scary because they’re so… BIG.

I mean, if I hadn’t run several other marathons before, that list above of all the steps I need to accomplish between now and race day might really be intimidating.  Thankfully, for that particular goal, I know where I’m going and I’ve accomplished a similar goal many times, so it’s not that bad.

But what about a bigger goal that I haven’t done before?

Well, that’s when I pull something I call The Duality of the Mind out of my bag of tricks.  Psychologists probably have an official word or phrase for what I’m about to describe, but I don’t know what it is.  This is something I discovered on my own and a method I use often when I’m doing something unpleasant or lengthy.  (Like, oh, I don’t know…running a marathon, maybe?)

One part of my brain knows, understands and acknowledges that what I’m doing or about to do is, in fact, a huge task and thus, is prepared for it, plans for it, and works toward it.

The other part of my brain – at the exact same time – acts blissfully unaware of the larger event and is focused solely on the tiny little detail in front of it.

For example, when I’m running a marathon, obviously I know about it.  I mean, I signed up, I trained for it, I arrived at the venue early in the morning wearing running clothes, so, yeah.  I know I’m running it.  But I don’t really allow myself to think about it too much.  Instead, I focus on running one mile.  Most marathons have markers of some sort at each mile, and if they don’t, my GPS watch has a chime, so I always know when I’ve completed a mile.  And that’s what I do for however many hours it takes me to finish the race:  I run one mile at a time.  Eventually, all those single miles add up to 26.2 and – boom! – I’m done, having barely thought about the enormity of the task as a whole.  I frequently “surprise” myself with accomplishments like this.

Do you have any lofty goals for 2016?  What steps are you taking to help you accomplish them?  I’d love to hear what your plans are – you can join in the conversation in the private Facebook group I’ve created, The Killer B Hive!  Request access by clicking here.

Love Pahla

P.S.  I almost forgot to explain the title of this post!  It’s an old saying, and one that I use as a mantra very frequently during long runs and races:  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Cheers to an exciting and successful 2016!

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