Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Setting Goals: Cracking the 7 Minute Mile

If I learned anything about life from my high school basketball coach, and believe me I probably learned more about life than I did about basketball, it was the importance of setting goals. He broke each season down into individual goals the team could strive to achieve and showed me that life very much proceeds through the goals you set. You can't always achieve all of your goals unfortunately, but to not have them is to not have a direction in life, something tangible to work towards. And when you are working towards something, you are much more focused on getting there to the best of your ability with maximum effort.

Two years ago I started participating in triathlons. Trust me, it sounds a lot more significant than it really is. These are very short: .3 mile swim, 15 mile bike and 3 mile run. Not so much an Iron Man but still good chunks of exercise being done one after the other.  After the NYC Marathon in 2003 I had always thought that triathlons would be something I would enjoy. I really like the variety of the training you have to do and because the distances are short the training sessions can be done in manageable segments in between work and home responsibilities.

Breaking the 7 minute mile barrier had always been a goal of mine but I had never been able to achieve it. In all of my trainings and in all of the 5k races I had run in my adult life, I had never cracked 7 minute miles. I eventually filed it away in the back of my head and assumed that as I got older this goal would get harder and harder to achieve. Certainly I never expected to do it after having swam .3 miles and biked 15. But sure enough this past summer during the Timberman Triathlon I found myself with gas left in the tank turning for home in the run and I emptied it. Not only did I crack 7 minute miles, I crushed it! My time was 20:23 and my overall pace ended up being 6:47/mile. I did the second half of the race 2 minutes faster than the first. And this was after having swam and biked! I was beyond thrilled.

It's not that I ever gave up trying to achieve my goal. I continued to train as hard as I could.  I pushed myself every step of the way. But I definitely lost focus of that particular goal and stopped thinking about it. Yet, it was at this point that I ended up achieving it. Perhaps I need to stop thinking (and if you know me you know it's more like obsessing) about it in order for it to happen.

Career wise, goals are imperative. If they weren't, employers wouldn't ask "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" during interviews. They not only want to know if you are projecting yourself in a career in the field but also they want to see if you have a sense of purpose and direction guiding you. So no matter where you find yourself in your career, be sure to set goals. It's completely fine to not achieve them or to alter them down the road, goodness knows I have done both, but if you don't have them at all you'll have nothing to go after every morning when you wake up.

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