Goal setting, Inspiration, Self-reflection

On motivation, goals, and how they don’t always link the way you would expect.

Ellie outside on a tree-lined path in the rain, smiling to the camera
Ellie outside on a tree-lined path in the rain, smiling to the camera

This is the consequence of taking on a 25km, 16 km bridge walk – the Thames Bridges Trek. This isn’t the day itself (which was sunny and to be honest a little too warm). This is today. 3 days later, in the pouring rain, round the corner from home.

I signed up for a 25km walk over 18 months ago but for obvious reasons it got delayed and moved and altered. During lockdown I walked every morning in the peace and quiet. Virtual challenges ( 100km per month etc) kept me going mentally and physically. When my younger son returned to primary school I walked with him and then carried on. But I’ll be honest, over the summer, my motivation to walk nose-dived. Two weeks ago I really REALLY didn’t want to do the event. I didn’t want to walk and I definitely didn’t want to do trains into London. I thought I would do it because I had promised a friend and had done all the training, and then I’d be done.

But a weird thing happened. The event itself was hard (especially 19-23 km which was hot, seemingly endless concrete and crowds). My feet hurt. On Sunday I didn’t do much, though I didn’t get any other after effects. Yesterday I didn’t walk – busy working, but during the day I was aware that my legs and my brain were itching to be out again. So today, DESPITE having achieved the goal I was working towards, I set off for a quick stroll round the block in the pouring rain.

I guess I’m writing this as a reflection that goals, motivation and actions don’t always link and follow in the way you expect. My motivation really dropped as my goal became closer and has picked up again afterwards, even though I haven’t yet got another similar goal in mind. I suspect this isn’t news to some people – it’s why the UltraChallenge company who run the events immediately email us with discounts for signing up for next year! But, if your motivation has gone missing as you approach your goal, it might be the time when you just have to say “I’ve come this far now so I’m going to see it through whatever” and then use the motivation bounce after you reach the goal to set the next one.

Ellie holding up a medal in the sunshine at the finish line of the Thames Bridges Trek
Ellie holding up a medal in the sunshine at the finish line of the Thames Bridges Trek
Goal setting, Inspiration

Goal setting – what matters is what works for you

I spend many Saturday mornings sorting out goals….

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Every January we are bombarded with goal setting tips, ideas and examples, for work, for health, for life. It can feel overwhelming, and I certainly sometimes feel “peer” pressure to set goals. However, I am not always in the right frame of mind to set goals. If I set goals because I “should”, then the goals are rarely the ones that are truly meaningful and I rarely meet them. I need the right environment to set my goals, and it has to be the right moment. Admittedly it is inconvenient when this moment occurs on the school run or when I am doing something for the kids, so I am not saying I have to stop and do it immediately – more that my brain has to be open to that type of thinking. This year it HAS come together in January, but it doesn’t always.

Also, I don’t always write my goals in a certain way or format, and they definitely aren’t always SMART (Specific, Measureable, Acheivable, Realistic and Time constrained) in any way that would be recognisable to a project manager. This year, my personal goals have taken the form of two sets of images that mean things to me. The first is about my aim to be “fitter, stronger, healthier and happier” by this time next year  – and some ideas of how to get there, but the precise meaning of the terms is broad. This image is on the wall by my bed so I see it at least twice a day. I will also print a wallet sized card to carry with me.

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The second goal, or resolution, is actually represented by a “word for the year”. This year, my word is “Energy”. We have a tendency in my house to focus on tiredness and I would love to focus more on energy (in the hope of creating some). Also, I recognise that my “energy” or mood affects others and so by changing my own attitude I might influence other people. The images for this word represent things that hopefully will top up my energy bank.

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I am backing up these “goals” with a habit tracker reminding me to drink more water, move more, get more sleep and say something positive to my loved ones every day. All things that should contribute to my aim and relate to my word of the year.

Whilst images are inspiring for my personal goals, my business goals for this year seem to feel stronger when written as words and lists, and are definitely SMART-er.

What matters is having something to aim for, whether you call it a goal, a mission or a resolution. Words, images, numbers, feelings, the “right” way to do it is whatever works for you. The things described in this blog feel right to me for this year. And that is what will give me the best chance of achieving my goals.

Happy New Year!