The power of goals

By Lisa Sugarman

We all have goals that motivate us. You know, ambitions or aspirations or intentions that stir and inspire us to fight harder or go longer or be more devoted than we normally would be. And I think it’s fair to say that most people live in blissful ignorance of what they’re truly capable of, unless they have some kind of a carrot to chase that draws out their full potential. Cause let’s face it, when we’ve got some kind of emotional or physical or tangible goal dangling in front of us, it usually makes the wheels turn a little faster.

See, what I’ve always found so interesting is how vastly different peoples’ goals can be. And more interesting still, is how broad the measurement is for achieving them. I mean, for some people, their big goal may just be getting up out of bed every morning, getting dressed, and making it to work on time. While for others, it’s breaking physical barriers like climbing all forty-eight of the White Mountains’ 4000 footers or being the first American Ninja or skiing K2. Or maybe your goal is to smoke less or lose a hundred pounds or do three complete boy-style pushups without your forearms snapping.

And in terms of reaching your goals, think of it this way: A mile is still a mile no matter how long it takes you to run it. In other words, whatever your dream is, you’ll eventually get there at a pace that’s very uniquely your own. Because when it comes to goals, pace is really irrelevant. The bottom line is achievement of the goal, not how long acquisition actually takes.

Here’s the perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about.

Last Sunday, I ran a 5K road race with about 125 of my closest fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade girlfriends; all of whom I coach, along with an inspiring and devoted group of six other women. The race was the climax of our six-week season. We’ve all spent the last month and a half coaching this group of girls, training for and working toward 125 different goals. So interesting, isn’t it? Such a huge group of people, all working toward what appears to be the same end, but with 125 different mini goals woven just under the surface. Fascinating.

Fit Girls Run Club Marblehead. 125 girls strong. 125 different goals. 125 success stories.

Fit Girls Run Club Marblehead.
125 girls strong. 125 different goals. 125 success stories.

For some, their goal was breaking a ten-minute mile or running a sub-eight for the first time. Or running without cramps. Or just making it around the course without stopping. Or without any sort of running-induced vomiting. While for others, just finishing the 3.1 mile run was all that mattered—regardless of how they looked crossing the line. Because after all, tripping into the end zone ass over elbow still gets you the six points, according to any NFL standard. Breaking the plane is a touchdown, regardless of how ugly it looks on the instant replay.

So I’m very proud to say that all of our girls and their friends and families and running buddies broke the plane and got the job done—because pace, as I’ve also learned, is completely relative. Every single one of them crossed the exact same finish line. And the cheers for the first girls were exactly as loud as they were for the last ones. That’s because each and every one of them instinctively knew what it meant to have a goal and to work toward it, regardless of what the goal was. So there was a mutual respect for everyone accomplishing what they set out to do.

And that right there is why I love having goals. It’s why finding something to metaphorically aim at—whatever that something is—ensures that you’re always aiming for something. Because shooting off rounds into wide open space without a target to hit generally won’t score you any marksmanship points. At best, it’ll just graze someone in the ass. That’s because without an objective you can’t very well have a mission, now can you?

Now of course, the best-case scenario is to have someone there with you to hold you accountable to your goal. And while it’s not absolutely necessary in terms of actually being successful, it’s mighty helpful in the long run if you’ve got someone calling you out when you’re slacking off. But not everyone has that luxury. Meaning you just have to police yourself. And while being responsible for ourselves isn’t always that easy, it’s more than doable with some modest effort.

So while it’s most definitely helpful to have a coach or a mentor or a sidekick to help keep your eye on the prize, the most important thing to have is a goal in the first place. Any kind of goal that keeps the momentum going. Because without something moving you forward, you’re really just standing still. And that doesn’t really accomplish anything, now does it?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

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