How to set Goals
As mentioned previously, one of the most difficult aspects of setting goals, is making them structured enough to yield results. Using the acronym SMART is the best way to create a reasonable plan to work towards a goal. SMART is an acronym that can guide the goal-setter to laying out a plan for the goal
S: Specific: What is your specific goal? When do you want to achieve it by? Think in detail about the race or event where you would like to see your goal realized.
M: Measurable and Meaningful: While setting a goal like, “I want to run fast” or “I want to finish in the top three for my age group” feels realistic, it is far more useful to have a quantified goal based off of time or pace. “Running fast” has no start or end point (all times are fast or slow compared to someone else) and finishing in a certain place is not controllable. Keep your goal something that you can control and see growth.
A: Attainable: Do not set yourself up for failure. Set a goal that is something you can achieve with appropriate training. If this is difficult for you, talk with a fellow athlete, coach, or other professional about your abilities and time commitment. Significant others or family members are not always a realistic sounding board.
R: (W)Ritten : Numerous studies have found that putting a goal in writing helps a person achieve. Not only is it helpful to write your goal down, but journaling (or keeping a training log in the process) helps the athlete see the concrete steps that they are taking.
T: Timely It is better to give your self an end date with a goal. If one said, “I would like to run a marathon under four hours someday” there would be no pressure to work towards that goal. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time, mark your calendar, and start your training.
Setting your own goals
If you are feeling ready to start training, take a moment, or go for a reflective run to think about what you would like to achieve with running. Make it personal and practical. Share with a friend or coach what the goal is and brainstorm everything that will need to be done to achieve it; what workouts and paces you will need to run, lifestyle changes, and rearrangement of other commitments. Also think about what obstacles you might encounter; your work schedule, previous injuries, family and relationship obligations. Be mindful of your abilities, but remain optimistic. You are capable of whatever your goal is as long as you give yourself the power to achieve it.
Gollwitzer, P.M (2008) When Intentions Go Public: Does Social-Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap, Psychological Science Vol. 20
Morano, H. (2016) The Goals that Guide Us, Psychology Today