Back in April I made the decision to run a half marathon…at the end of May. Planning ahead is not always my forte. With only 7 weeks before race day, I had a lot of work to do. I was literally running 0 miles per week prior to making this decision. I ran a half marathon 10 years ago and had been sporadically running when I felt like it since then, but certainly nothing consistent. But I set the goal and 7 weeks later I ran and finished my half marathon, beating my previous half marathon time from the decade before. Now, I could never claim to be a fast runner, so my time is nothing to write home about, but my goal was to finish the race and I worked my butt off and made it. It wasn’t easy, there were many doubts and sacrifices along the way, and I officially declared myself insane while trudging through the last mile of the race, but I set a goal and I made it happen.
You can too. Whatever your goal is, it doesn’t just have to be a dream that feels so far off and impossible. You can start turning your goal into a reality today. It’s not going to be easy, you will have to make sacrifices, you might think that you’re crazy on an occasion or two (others will probably agree), but when you actually achieve your goal you will feel like a million bucks and you’ll be able to reap all the benefits that you’re aiming for when you set the goal in the first place.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles. When I set that goal, I couldn’t even run a half mile without stopping for a walking break. What I could do is lace up my shoes and head out the door and go. I ran, then I walked, then I ran some more. Over and over again until race day when I laced up my shoes and did the exact same thing, for 13.1 miles.
You can dream and plan and analyze your goal and how you’re going to achieve it until Jesus returns. But at some point, if you actually want to achieve your goal, you just have to start. Stop planning, stop thinking, stop worrying. Just take a step in that direction. It might not be the best step, you might not know all the steps that will follow, but a step is a start, and once you’ve started the hardest part is over.
“Well begun is half done.” – Aristotle
Start Over, Immediately
Have you ever had a friend that always seemed to be starting a new diet every Monday? And every Tuesday or Wednesday they were back to eating french fries and ice cream? We will all make mistakes when we set out to try something new. You will have a bad day when you don’t accomplish half the things on your to do list. You’ll fall into laziness or temptation and make a bad decision. During my half marathon training I overdid it one day and injured my calf. These types of situations are not reasons to throw in the towel. A bad day is just a bad day. The wrong decision is just the wrong decision. A setback is just a setback. It is not the end of the world. It is not the end of your diet. It is not the end of your journey to your goal.
And we don’t need to wait for the next week, the next race, or the next semester to start over. You can start over right now. Why delay things further? If you have a goal, keep moving in the direction of your goal, it is the only way that you will ever get there. Stopping and starting over again and again doesn’t achieve anything. If you’re trying to lose weight and you eat a slice of pie, don’t beat yourself up, just start over at your next meal. Make a better decision next time. No harm done. Just keep going. In order to achieve new goals you have to form new habits. There will be mistakes along the way in habit formation, but the only way to form a habit is to keep going.
Adjust your course as you move
If you followed the above directions and started on the steps toward your goal before you had all the details planned out, kudos for you. You’ve made it past the starting line and a few bumps in the road along the way, but you might start seeing a curve ahead. You don’t have everything figure out, this might not be going exactly as you had planned. Now is the time to look ahead and make sure that your trajectory is still pointing in the direction that you want to travel.
When I was training for my half marathon I injured my calf and felt so defeated. Every time I set out to run, my calf tightened up within minutes and all I could do was walk (limp) home. There was no way I could take time off to let my calf heal if I had any hope of finishing my race in just a few weeks. So I adjusted my sails. If I couldn’t run, I hopped on the elliptical and still put in a good workout that was somewhat similar to running. I did a lot of research into my injury to try to figure out how to help myself heal. I used lots of ice and tons of stretching. I (re)learned the importance of warming up and how to do it properly to help my calf be ready for my runs. Within about a week and a half, I had learned enough and healed enough that I was back on track with my training plan.
It’s important to remember that you still don’t want to over-think, over-analyze, and over-plan at this stage. You still have to keep moving. But if you realize that some of the steps you are taking aren’t leading you toward your goal, then switch things up and try something new. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with your plan, just pay close attention to your progress to be sure that you are always moving in the direction of your dreams.
Remember your why
You will have to make sacrifices along the way. No goal is worth attaining if it doesn’t take a bit of work. There is no magic pill for losing weight. Running a race takes an incredible amount of work and dedication. Earning your degree will require you to miss out on fun things and work when you’d rather rest. Whatever it is that you are aiming to achieve, it’s probably not going to be a piece of cake or an enjoyable process everyday. During these difficult, no fun times, it’s important to remind yourself of why you started on this journey in the first place. Remember the life that you are trying to build for yourself. Remember the example you are trying to set for your children (or grandchildren). Remember that you can do hard things now for a better tomorrow.
Keep moving forward. Keep getting stronger. Keep doing the next right thing. And you will achieve your dreams.