Setting Goals – The Grim Reapers Kryptonite

During 1985 Joe Simpson fell into a deep crevasse after summiting Siula Grande. With a broken leg and hypothermia taking hold Joe had two choices; lie there and die, or crawl out of the crevasse and back to camp 5 miles away.

Three days later he made it, barely alive but there to tell the tail. How could one man escape a crevasse and crawl for three days with no food and a broken leg? The story above was later made into a book and then a film, ‘Touching The Void’. Joe’s story offers a very powerful message.

Joe survived using one simple technique, something we can all use in our day to day life, goal setting. Not just, ‘my goal is to make it back alive’, but goals to reach a goal. Many layers of mini goals are a powerful tool. It is surprising what can be achieved by setting mini goals and not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the end game.

We all have dreams, bucket lists and ambitions. Dreams worth chasing are overwhelming, when the path is unclear we have a habit of not moving forward. By looking at what we can achieve in the here and now, we can start to find that path; like Joe, he couldn’t contemplate crawling out of a crevasse before dragging his broken leg 5 miles back to camp. Instead he set the goal of reaching a rock just visible in the distance, then the next and so on. Joe broke his epic journey down into bite sized pieces his brain could work with.

I set an ambitious goal just 9 months ago despite struggling with knee pain and thigh strains. Enchanted by the Cleveland Way I was desperate to one day run the Hardmoors 55. Covering some of the toughest routes along the North Yorkshire Moors, this 55 mile race takes in a lot of tough climbs and challenges even the best of Ultra Runners. The journey to complete such a race is long, very long, but getting started is simple.

Phase One – Research

Phase one of achieving any goal is research. I read a lot and enlisted the help of Jayson Cavill my coach. During phase one we learn what is required to achieve our goals and start to see the rocks in front of us, rather than the vast landscape far off in the future.

In my case the first rock was building a base of fitness, then endurance and slowly, patiently adding to these over a few years. As I researched I could work back from my main goal setting smaller targets, almost like a breadcrumb trail to follow. What at first seemed overwhelming and foggy started to clear and come into focus.

Phase Two – Jump

Spending too long, or even worse, forever in phase one is all too easy. Its fun to contemplate what is possible and prolong the hard part, diving in. This is phase two, throwing yourself head first into achieving the first mini goal. You may never feel completely ready to start phase two, because there is always another book to read, or another technique to learn, but true learning comes through experience.

You will make mistakes and cock things up, but you will learn from them and wish you’d started sooner. This is all a natural part of achieving your goal, if it was easy and obvious it wouldn’t be ambitious and worth striving for.

Phase Three – Living The Dream

When you’re there, at your first rock, your first mini goal ready to set your sights on the next you are at phase three. Your end goal will unfold bit by bit. With every mini goal you achieve, the end game will seem more realistic, more achievable and setting every new mini goal should come with more ease.

This is the fun part, when hard work pays off and you can feel your ambitions coming together. Remember “its about the journey, not the destination” so embrace it, achieving these small stepping stones will fill you with pride.

Achieving Your Goals In Reality

I am approaching halfway in my goal to race the Hardmoors 55. Back in October 2016 I was averaging 15 miles a week of low intensity running and couldn’t race 13 miles without injury. I now average 25-35 miles a week including high intensity sessions. I have completed an off road marathon, finishing well and started to increase my speed. All this came about through setting gradual race goals and training to achieve them.

The race goals were markers on my path and each week was a mini goal to achieve a certain level of fitness. I started by completing a 16 mile Hardmoors half marathon, then progressed to complete the marathon. Now I am working to compete in these races starting with a 5K, 10K, 8 mile and then 16 mile race. My initial goals were to do the distance, now I am trying to build speed on top. Once I can compete I will move onto racing multiple marathons next year, to build my bodies endurance. This will lead nicely into March 2019 and the Hardmoors 55. Its a long path and every time I consider the end goal I get a shiver down my spine. But by using these smaller goals and micro goals I am edging nearer to it been a reality.

If you stumble blindly with no plan its fair to assume your dreams will remain just that. No matter the goal there will be numerous layers of crap to go through and a checklist the length of your arm to tick off. But make a plan and break it down, if you believe every mini goal is possible the end goal is definitely in reach…it just takes a little vision, some patience and a lot of heart.

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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

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