Setting a big hairy audacious goal

How do I motivate myself to run for 24 hours? Why should I keep trying to win something I have failed at many times before?

How do I motivate myself to run for 24 hours? Why should I keep trying to win something I have failed at many times before?

It has been creeping up on me for a while now; peeping its ugly head around the corner; lurking in the back of my mind; feeding off my thoughts of success and failure. It is the monster that gets me off the couch and into the hills every evening. It is the beast that forces me onto the bike when I would much rather drive the car. It won’t leave me alone. But do you know the worst part? I created it. I am Mr Jeckle and it is my Mr Hyde – My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

On the 20th of July, I will travel to Alice Springs in Australia to race in the World Rogaining Championships. The race has been my goal and motivation for the last six months or so. My BHAG is to win this race. It is intimidating that race day has almost arrived but also a convenient time to sit back, rest up for the race and reflect on motivation and goal setting; to refocus so the drive to succeed is at a maximum on race day.

The principles of goal setting for racing are not that different from other aspects of life. Here are my top three tips on setting a BHAG.

Figure out what motivates you and do that! There is no point setting a goal if you don’t really care if you achieve it or not. I am motivated by winning. Obvious right? Not entirely. It is a specific type of winning that motivates me to train hard and keep trying. It has to be success in the face of a challenge. Overcoming a weakness.

The World Rogaine Championships is a perfect example of this. Two years ago I went to the same event, in South Dakota. The race didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped but from that ‘failure’ I took so many lessons that I couldn’t wait to race again and improve. At that race, I felt that I gave up in the last six hours of the 24 hour race. The last six hours is when a rogaine is won. You can’t win it in the first 18, you can only lose it. It has taken many races for me to learn this lesson and I am not sure if I have mastered it yet, but knowing that I need to overcome this weakness to win is a necessary part of making the result feel like a true success.

Believe that the end goal is possible. The goal has to be sufficiently difficult to be a challenge (point number one) but you need to believe that it is possible. If you don’t believe you can achieve your goal, then you have very little chance of doing so.

Have you ever noticed that often an athlete will sit on the periphery of winning for many years (always placing third or fourth) and then suddenly have that ‘break-through’ performance when they finally manage to win? The difference between fourth and first is often miniscule – such a tiny margin that surely it cannot be due to being fitter, faster or stronger. Following their breakthrough performance they are able to take the top spot more regularly. They know how to win now. I think that this is a function of self-belief. Knowing how to win is largely about believing that you can.

I focus on a number of short term goals to build up this belief. They are local events where I have performance based goals (such as making less than 20 minutes of navigational errors), rather than outcome based ones (like winning). This means I feel good about my performance throughout my training and am hopefully in the right mind set to achieve my BHAG.

The third point is a difficult one and something I have learnt to deal with recently. Scary as it may sound, you need to tell people what your goal is. Why? Because it makes it real, holds you accountable and forces you to get on with it. In my case it also means that I can find time to go training. People around me understand why I can’t make it to dinner in the weekend or why I might have to leave an event early. I have to go running! I have a goal to achieve that they know about and understand.

It also makes me accountable for my goal. Should I succeed or fail, I will have to deal with the consequences. In some ways, failure is more palatable if shared. It helps you to reflect on what went well or what went wrong, and on the lessons you might have learnt along the way. It can set you up to try again. So tell your family, your friends, your colleagues. Write it down in big letters on your calendar.

I have told all of you my goal now. I can’t hide from it anymore. I am motivated and ready to go make it happen on the 23rd of July. Whether it be success or failure that follows, I know that I have done all I can to prepare for it. The rocks, spiders, prickly plants and desert sun are waiting for me in the Australian Outback.

Join me and follow the event at http://worldrogainingchamps.com.au/.

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