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Eating An Elephant: The Importance of Goal-Setting

By Kelly Mahoney, Ironman competitor.

If you told me five years ago that I’d be training for an Ironman, I would have laughed in your face.

Because at that time, if you saw me running, you’d better start running, too, because something was after me. I would not have considered myself athletic, because my version of working out involved watching some terrible reality television while leisurely pacing on my elliptical in our basement. I did not sweat, as a rule.

Goal-setting is utilized by athletes the world over.
By setting feasible goals for yourself, your bigger aspirations will feel much more attainable.

Since then, I’ve completed two 70.3 triathlons, two marathons, five half marathons and a slue of shorter distance road and triathlon races. I’m registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2014 and am truly looking forward to pushing my body to the limits for the next year.

It’s a sickness. But this didn’t happen overnight.

So how do you go from a brownie-eating, reality TV enjoying couch potato to a 23:37 5K PR and Ironman hopeful? Goals. Lots of small, attainable goals.

On Goal-Setting

Setting goals was not a new approach for me, and won’t be new for you. Chances are, you set goals at work, school and in other facets of your life (finish school in May, get a job by July, make the dean’s list, be a manager by 30, etc.). Goals are benchmarks for our lives and keep us accountable. It’s what makes the difference between a pie in the sky dream and an action plan.

Set goals that you know you can handle.
Bringing your long-term goals to fruition can be challenging. Keep your short-term goals simple and straightforward to maintain focus on the projected outcome.

I started with small goals, the first of which included drink eight glasses of water a day and exercise for two hours per week.

Once I could achieve that, I added to the mix eating vegetables every day and working towards running for 30 minutes nonstop.

When I saw a video on YouTube of the Ironman and decided “I want to do that!,” I added swimming to the mix and started equally small. I had to learn how to put on a swim cap, then how to do a flip turn. I looked up what I didn’t know on YouTube or blogs, then set small goals.

My first swimming-related goal was to swim for 10 minutes continuously. Then, I sought to add distance to this 10 minutes. I eventually took a swim lesson and set the goal of swimming three days per week.

I tend to write down my goals and add a deadline so that I have a bit of fire underneath me. I sign up for races far in advance for the same reason – paying serious cash keeps me motivated.

With each goal, I gained confidence along with endurance. The setting and achievement of goals is crucial to making strides in any pursuit for these very reasons. In my experience, small, attainable goals are the foundation of my success because they force me to break down a large project or goal into digestible pieces.

Because the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

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