Bobby McGee is one of the world’s greatest distance coaches. In his book, “Magical Running” he focuses on the mental and spiritual aspects of peak performance, not just the itty-bitty details such as training plans, biomechanics and form. Of course these details matter, however, McGee believes that focusing on the journey of training and preparation is what makes the difference.
If [runners] thought about it, they might realize that they were having the most fun and experiencing the greatest degree of fulfillment while they were striving for their achievement – not after completing the act. ~Bobby McGee, Running Coach
Hmmm…sound familiar…it’s about the journey not the destination. McGee suggests we rethink how we differentiate targets and goals, distinguishing between ‘what’ we want and ‘who’ we want to be.
Targets are measurable outcomes - race times, result. The purpose of the target is to provide a focal point and in that way targets determine your direction.
Goals encompass the broader spectrum from emotion to attitude, that make you the person you are, and that keep you on course to reach your targets and more.
For example, a target would be to place in the top 20% of your age group in a half marathon and a goal would be to develop the discipline to do the necessary training and drills to improve your time. Another target could be to decrease your time by 5 minutes so the same goal regarding discipline would be relevant. You may have a related goal to overcome anxiety by training in a wide variety of conditions – weather, terrain, other race distances etc.
Once you have your target it’s important to detach yourself from it and focus on the process it takes you through. This way, if you miss your target, you still have other accomplishments to celebrate such as stamina, resiliency and faster speed even if not as fast as you wanted.
The target is the focal point. The goal is what you learn about yourself and who you become on your way to achieving your target. And your corresponding actions are what matter once you’ve established your targets and goals. Getting up early to get your run in even when raining, taking the hilly route when you don’t feel like it, or paying attention and taking a day off for precious rest when your legs say “enough”.
I like the simplicity and clarity of targets and goals. Over the years, I’ve worked with clients a lot on strategic plans, whether personal or organizational. McGee’s approach to targets and goals applies in any situation not just running and sports. While moving towards our target may not be linear, we still have the sense of accomplishment from what we learn along the way. Having targets supported by goals creates a sense of progress and fuels motivation.
Every target is another opportunity to discover more about ourselves and what’s possible. If we pay attention to choosing our attitude and approach, how enjoyable might the journey be whether we reach our targets or not? What might we discover?