Thursday, January 02, 2014

Mind the Gap - Big Dreams and the Terror In Launching After a Goal

"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan."
-Tom LandryLegendary NFL Head Coach

This post is about biting off more than you can chew.  Dealing with the realization that you don't plan on taking anything off your plate (or I guess figuratively outta your mouth) prior to the journey towards the achievement of life altering stuff.  Yep, yet another pursuing big goals and dreams blog.  Just don't choke (pun intended).

Literal meaning - in mass transit (think subway trains), 'mind the gap' refers to making sure you don't underestimate the distance between the platform and train and step into the chasm (which could cause a serious injury)
As a metaphor - in my life, 'mind the gap' means making sure I don't hyper fixate on the distance between present day and my goal/dream and get stuck in that void (doing nothing to move from one side to the other)

There is a major pitfall I have often experienced in chasing after huge goals and dreams not long after setting them. In the few weeks after declaring something huge (as is often the case for many people between January 1st & January 22nd every year) is once I say, "I'm gonna do ______ this year!" my next step is to plan out how exactly I intend to accomplish that declaration.  Even if you are not an uber planner, it is pretty common to have that realization that where we stand right now and where we want to end up (in achieving that goal) is a massive distance apart.  I refer to that massive distance as "the gap".

My 2014 set of goals & dreams are all pretty simple, and totally straight forward.  One of them might even seem to be an over share (rare for me, I know):

1- publish my first book (Making Molehills Out of Mountains)
2- enter, start & finish all 6 hundred milers in the Last Great Race ultra challenge (aka the Original 6 hundreds in the US in the same year June-September)
3- quadruple my income as a keynote speaker & coach
4- make a baby, and help my wife bring a healthy child into existence (okay, so there's your TMI for this post)

LGR has been completed 36 times. Only ONCE in last 6 yrs (David Snipes)

I'll take a moment to examine my #2 for a minute (since many of you have declared some big athletic goals publicly for 2014).  I have been training to run 100 milers for more than 8 years now, and have only attempted to complete 3 in the same calendar year once (in 2010, I finished Rocky Raccoon in February, Badwater in July and then DNF'd Oil Creek in October at mile 76).  I have completed 2 hundred milers in the same year 4 times, and until 2013, those 2 were never closer than 2-3 months apart, minimum.  In 2013, I completed my now typical 2 hundred milers, but they were 13 days apart (Angeles Crest August 3-4, then Leadville August 17-18).  I was wrecked for the better part of 2 weeks afterward.  The idea of 6 hundreds over a 13 week period is daunting, especially when measured by my past experiences.  Doing a 100 mile trail race every 13-21 days over 13 weeks, completing 3 times as many hundreds in a year (let alone in LESS than 3 months, my normal period in between 2 hundos) is terrifying to me.

After my goal post on December 19th, and really, since knowing I was going to go after the Last Great Race (made up my mind November 1st), all I can see right now is how far I have to go.  I am present to the cold, hard facts: I lack consistency, I am not disciplined, I have sub-par fitness, average endurance and I am overwhelmed by how much there is to plan and organize between now and June 7th (when this whole thing kicks off in Virginia).  Totally normal to get stuck in the void, and sometimes, it causes a form of paralysis where you are so focused on the big picture that you stop doing the little day-by-day things you know you need to be doing because you have trouble seeing how such little things will make a difference in something so massive.

Most people talk themselves out of continuing in this period.  The moment things get tough, when momentum or forward progress is lost, people tell themselves "this just isn't meant to be" or "maybe I'm not being realistic about this goal right now" and let themselves off the hook.  They back burner the goal, shelve it to "someday, maybe, but not now" status.  Really, all we need to do is create new momentum.  One of my favorite coaches from back in the day used to say, "in life, most people wait for the inspiration to do the thing.  Do the thing, get the inspiration."

I try to simplify and break down something that takes 6+ months into day by day steps.  Try this with your most daunting of 2014 goals:

STEP 1 - write the goal down (if you haven't already) and declare it to a committed listener (a friend that will be inspired by your commitment and encourage you along the way).  NO, this does not need to be done via social media FB/TW/Blog/etc.
*Run 6 hundred mile trail races from June 7th-Sept 6th

STEP 2 - determine where you anticipate you'd need to be (hypothetically speaking) by the time you are halfway through the time period you've given yourself to achieve that goal
*if I'm to be fit to run 6 hundreds in 13 weeks starting June 7th, I have about 5 months to train, so in 2.5 months, I should be in base 100 mile shape and capable of running 100 mountain miles by mid-March).

STEP 3 - determine where you anticipate you'd like to be one month from now (or another interim period, say 1-3 months away IF that is sooner than the STEP 2 declaration)
*if I am to be 100 miler fit by mid-March, I better be fit to run 50 miles in the mountains by early February.  How convenient that I'm registered for the Sean O'Brien 50 Miler on February 1st!

STEP 4 - continue to break the time periods down until you arrive at the 2 weeks out, 1 week out, and day-by-day steps
*having 4 weeks to arrive in 50 mile mountain running shape, I should be capable of running 20 mile back-to-backs in the mountains 3 weekends from now, meaning I need to be capable of 15-16 mile doubles this weekend or next.  Assuming that is true, I'm at my day-by-day goal/breakdown.  I need to run 4-6 days every week, getting out the door for a minimum 5-8 miles each run.  On many of my run days and some rest/recovery days, I need to be doing things that help my overall strength, fitness, flexibility and muscle balance.  Essentially, I must do something EVERY DAY that forwards my body or mind, towards this goal.  5 miles + 15 min dedicated to stretching is less than 1 hour of a commitment, meaning I need to dedicate an hour a day, minimum, to this end.

Suddenly, when I think of ONE singular hour, today (and tomorrow), it seems a lot more manageable.  I can run for 45-75 minutes today (in fact, I ran 9 miles in the mountains this morning), and I can repeat that again tomorrow (I took yesterday off).  One day at a time, one hour at a time, one mile at a time, one step at a time.

I have done this with 3 of my 4 major 2014 goals.  I have overcome my inertia from the post goal setting paralysis.  And when I feel daunted again, I shall once again 'mind the gap'.  Don't worry, you will fall short of your day to day expectations/plans, but really, your success will come from how quickly you can overcome that inertia again and start the new streak, your new momentum.  At the end of the year, whether or not you achieve the goal isn't the point.  Who you become along that journey is what it's all about...
The final step of my 2013 athletic stretch goal was painfully bittersweet.

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one."
-Mark Twain

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