What We Keep Messing Up About “SMART” Goals

A blue planner notebook that says “My Secret Plan to Rule the World” with a pink background. Photo by Ann H from Pexels.

Goals should be SMART, right? Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

But a lot of us fail to pay attention to the achievable and relevant parts of the planning process. We stick to specific and time bound, and if life goes sideways or we get smacked with a global pandemic or an illness or family issues or a job loss, we think we failed at our goal just because we didn’t finish it in the time allotted.

Goals need room to breathe and adjust.

When a goal is no longer relevant or achievable in the way you first planned, going back to that goal and changing your method or timeline is not only “not failing,” but it’s actually setting you up for success.

Goals change to honor you where you are

When I turned 25, I made a five year plan. I wanted to be debt free, married, and a parent by 30.

I am 32, twice divorced, child free by choice (plot twist!), and still looking at about $30,000 of debt between my student loan and car.

And I am cool with this.

Chasing marriage-and-baby as the measurement of my success would still have me in an abusive marriage instead of nearly three years out and in the healthiest relationship of my life.

Chasing debt-free would have me still in a toxic workplace just because it paid well, rather than seeking work that fuels my passion AND talents, with time to recover from burnout and start my own business.

Last year, I started off 2020 with a pile of goals. Get two more book deals, run my online course four times, and launch a coaching practice. As I realized these goals weren’t achievable in one year while balancing my own mental and physical health needs, I revised the goals.

And then I quit my job in the middle of the year and took several months off to recover from burnout.

At that point, my goal was survival and recovery.

Now that I’ve gotten through a period of rest, I’m job seeking, I’m launching a new brand, and I have two coaching clients. It’s a humble beginning, but it’s a beginning that honors my boundaries and needs.

It is okay if you have to press pause. It is okay if you hit a life milestone and haven’t achieved what you thought you would when you looked at this time and place from the past. And it’s also okay for you to have some feelings about it and grieve the life you thought you’d have right now.

But put yourself in your five-years-ago shoes. Are you better off now? Don’t think about your goals or where you could be now if you had done something different. Just — are you better off today than five years ago, with regard to your own happiness and life satisfaction?

Are your relationships better? Are you a better communicator? Do you love yourself more? Are you happier with your mental and emotional health? Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Are you in love? Did you read a really great book or find a new musical artist that brings you joy?

Yes to any of these? Rock on. That’s awesome and I love that for you.

No to any of these? Okay, let’s make a goal to work on that for this year.

The new SMART goals

Next time you set goals, don’t just go down the acronym and make a quick 5-point goal. Think it through. Try these prompts.

S – Specific

What is your goal, specifically? Don’t put a timeframe here, that comes later. An example of a specific goal is “run my online course four times this year” and an even more specific goal would be “sell out my online course four times this year with 10 people per run.”

How confident are you that you can achieve this goal? What if you only get eight people but still run your course each time? Will you still feel successful? What if 12 people want to take it? Will you change the number of seats you offer?

Be specific but be open to a bit of flexibility.

M – Measurable

What is the measure of your success for your goal? Continuing the above example, success would be measured by running the course four times with ten people per run. If your goal is to get a job, your measurement could be a job offer with your desired salary and benefits, or it could be as simple as accepting a job offer. It’s up to you how specific your goal is and how you measure it.

In my last job, I was making $71,000 per year but I was miserable. Recently in an interview for a nonprofit, I said I would need to make at least $55,000 per year in order to take a full time role that met my financial needs. I did the math, and that’s how much I would need to pay my bills and save up for a house or other long-term financial goal.

If your goal is to graduate college, the measure of your success could be hitting all your graduation requirements for a degree. Or you could shoot for a specific GPA to help you get into a graduate program. Your goals can have layers (getting into grad school being a separate goal).

When setting the measures for success, I like to take a stretch goal approach. For instance, I want to grow my social media presence to 500 followers, but it would be really cool if I hit 1000. This way, 500 is my measurable goal, and 1000 is the next measure I would want to hit but it’s going to be fine (and still successful) if I don’t get all the way there.

(By the way, follow me on Instagram at @CaitlinFisherAuthor and @CriticalHitRecovery.)

A – Achievable

Take into account your abilities and means to achieve your goal the way you want to. If you want to go to college full-time but you also need a full-time job to keep a roof over your head, maybe part-time is the way to go because full-time isn’t achievable while also maintaining your mental health.

For me, running my course four times in a year wasn’t possible in 2020 because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to develop, market, and run the course four times while also managing my stress. It wasn’t the right time for that goal. It didn’t mean the goal was bad, it just needed adjustment.

If your goal is to start a brand new business off the ground and make $100,000 in your first year, is that achievable? Maybe. Is it likely? Not really.

Adjust your goal to make sure it’s something you can feel good about working toward and you won’t be burning yourself out to achieve it at any cost. If you find yourself burning out, go back to your goal and rework it so that it is achievable.

R – Relevant

Does your goal make sense? Is it relevant to your long-term plans? I briefly considered buying a house this year but quickly realized that I’m open to relocating to another state in the next few years, so buying didn’t really make sense for me right now.

I also want a dog. Is that relevant to my long-term goals and my life right now? Finally, yes, I think it is. I am committed to remote work, so my “I’m not home enough for a dog” reason is no longer applicable, and I’ve wanted a dog for years now. (Is owning a dog a goal? It is now).

What could change the relevance of your goal? Would a change in your employment, relationship, or other aspect of your life change this goal? Make a list of what might impact it.

T – Time Bound

The trickiest aspect of goal setting is the timeline. Obviously a goal needs a target date for completion, or you won’t have any idea how to pace yourself and work toward it.

But this is where we get so hung up on our goals. We put all our eggs into the time-bound basket without checking back in on the rest, and then if something happens that derails a goal, we internalize it as a failure.

But the failure isn’t in you, it’s in approaching goals as a rigid and immovable force that can’t be shifted and adapted.

How to avoid the time-bound trap

I want you to look back on your life and think about all the amazing things you did, not get hung up on when you did them. Your life is full of achievements, strength, courage, and joy. These things don’t need to be timed or measured in order for them to have their full weight as positive experiences.

So here’s what I want you to do when you’re setting your goals:

  • Make a giant list of all the things you need to do to achieve your goal in your allotted time
  • Schedule regular check-ins to make sure your goals are still achievable and relevant for the time allotted
  • If not, adjust your measurement, your goal, or your timeline
  • Don’t beat yourself up about having to change your goal — your diligence and consistency will pay off, and your success is still a success even if it comes later than you planned

Work with me one on one

Setting goals is easy. Staying on top of them, and working through your brain’s bullshit, is not. I help my clients work toward their goals with accountability and mindset work (and some tough love if they’re lying to themselves about how achievable their big pile of goals is). Schedule a free 30-minute consult to see if we’d be a good fit for coaching!

“I Quit My Job Over #BLM” — How Millennials Are Killing Businesses from the Inside Out

Image Desc: A photo from a Black Lives Matter protest with signs unfocused in the foreground and background. A sign in the center, held up by a white-appearing person’s arm, says “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards – Ella Wheeler Cox”
Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash

I have a background in marketing, branding, and social media. I’ve developed consumer personas of millennial and gen Z buyers, led rebranding meetings to capture a younger audience, and I’m a millennial consumer myself.

This summer, I quit a marketing job in order to recover from burnout, begin a coaching practice, and pursue a career in nonprofit communications. And one of the things that is front and center in my job search is making sure that any organization I work for aligns with my personal values. 

Turns out, that’s a pretty typical millennial thing to do. 

Millennials and Gen Z Respond to Brands’ Ethics

One of the most frustrating* things about Millennials is the way we keep senselessly destroying industries, products, and norms. We killed Applebee’s, we killed canned tuna, we killed styrofoam cups, we killed gym memberships. (*sarcasm)

I wrote the following excerpt two years ago but it still stands — and has evolved to include an even bigger focus on social justice and ethical integrity of brands.

This blatant and ubiquitous finger pointing is one more attempt to accuse us of ruining the fun for everyone else, despite the fact that industries change over time and maybe your product has simply reached the end of its time to shine. Do you see Apple out there whining that nobody buys an iPod Shuffle anymore? Hell no! Apple gets with the times and offers new, better, on-trend offerings. And when we’ve all got our cell phones directly embedded into our brains or our forearms or whatever the future holds, they’ll come up with something else. 

Did millennials destroy huge tube television sets, or did technology improve to the point where flat screens are accessible and affordable? Did millennials destroy desktop computers, or have developments in laptops and tablets offered a more realistic solution for people to take their work on the go? Did we destroy USB drives, or did Google and Apple perfect cloud technology? 

Why is it so much easier to point at a whole generation of young adults and say “Oh my God, they killed JCPenney” than it is to realistically grasp the concept that technology and societal needs change over time? For each thing “destroyed” by millennials, take a look around and see if something else has developed in its place. 

We’re killing restaurants but giving rise to meal subscription services. 

We’re killing grocery store chains while promoting low-overhead online alternatives like Thrive Market and Brandless. 

We’re killing diamonds and jewelers, instead supporting a robust network of Etsy sellers who offer their handmade wares from across the globe. 

So what does this mean, for consumerism, for capitalism, and for the economy at large? Are millennials wielding their mighty collective Twitter presence to destroy the way we buy things and exchange money for goods and services? You betcha. 

Excerpt from The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher, May 2019

Over half of young consumers (55%) have participated in Black Lives Matter protests, activism, and awareness, as reported by Y Pulse. And these consumers want their purchases to reflect their values. Sixty-nine percent of millennial and gen Z consumers surveyed think that brands should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s incredibly clear that youth brands need to be participating in supporting this cause right now. In fact, as Business Insider reports, many are telling influencers and celebrities that if they aren’t posting to show support of Black Lives Matter, they should cease posting completely. Brands are likely to be viewed in the same light, and those who sat on the sidelines or ignored this historic moment will not be remembered kindly by young consumers.

Y Pulse: Most Young Consumers Want Brands to Support #BlackLivesMatter – Here’s How

And simply trotting out an empty line about support isn’t enough. We want to see action, money, and resources supporting the cause. We want transparency about how many people of color, women, queer folx, and other marginalized people are in executive leadership. We want to know where people of color are working — salary positions in the office, or hourly labor positions? And when you tell us, we want to know what you’re doing about the discrepancies now that you see them more clearly.

Consumers, many of whom have donated hundreds of dollars to these causes, are asking for more, and they’ve made it clear that corporate praise will be harder to come by — especially if organizations are not transparent in their commitments and hesitant to open their purses.

Vox: Consumers don’t care about corporate solidarity. They want donations.

Forbes is tracking corporate contributions to the BLM movement, with many well-known brands making the list with financial contributions to organizations and grassroots campaigns. But money isn’t enough if it isn’t accompanied by action — for example, Facebook made a financial contribution and a statement about Black Lives Matter, but regularly censors and removes posts from Black writers and activists that speak out against white supremacy or police brutality, while posts from white supremacists and far-right extremists are left alone and reports dismissed, while algorithms steer people to their harmful content.* (*Content note: This New York Times article makes a fatphobic reference to fast food companies and obesity.)

With millennials wielding an estimated $2.5 trillion in annual spending power, brands need to follow that money to stay relevant. More and more, we’re seeing brands that used to choose neutrality quickly switching gears to course correct when confronted with discriminatory company history.

It’s refreshing, as a millennial who has witnessed years of eyeroll-worthy headlines about the crumbling diamond industry, to see the collective realization of large companies that the future is millennial and gen Z. 

The tide of consumerism and brand loyalty is changing. While brand loyalty used to mean only ever buying one brand of toothpaste, the concept has evolved and shifted.

Now, a brand needs to be loyal to its values — and the values of its consumers — if it wants to succeed in an era of conscious consumerism.

From Buying Habits to Hiring Practices

Just as brands are shifting to follow consumer habits, companies will also have to shift to attract and keep the best talent employed. The older, corporate types are retiring and leaving the workforce, and millennials are stepping in as companies refresh and rebrand.

How will a company attract millennial and gen Z dollars if they can’t reflect millennial and gen Z values?

This is forcing companies to consider what younger people want when they’re hiring new employees who will shape the future of their brands. Millennials building their careers want purposeful jobs that make them feel good about the work they do. And they also want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment and remote work options — which are now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic, as we discovered almost immediately that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. 

We also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And we will give up money to take a job that provides better culture or balance. 

A 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. 

If you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture.

And I, for one, welcome our new millennial and gen Z overlords. 

I Quit My Job Over #BLM — And I’m Not the Only One 

The timing of my career shift was prompted by my company’s disappointing response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As the content manager for a major greenhouse operation, Green Circle Growers, with multiple national houseplant brands including Just Add Ice orchids and Wild Interiors, I oversaw our social media and blog content, as well as all marketing materials for the company. So when I saw that our main competitors and the retailers that sold our products were making statements and monetary contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement, I expected that we would act alongside them. 

I sent my manager some screenshots of posts along with a recommendation that we make a post the following day in support, with a contribution to the NAACP. I thought nothing of it and expected a thumbs up to move forward. 

Instead, my recommendation that we post across all our brands was shut down by company leadership. 

And, somewhat out of character for my conflict-avoidant self, I pushed back and asked them to reconsider. 

I pointed out that millennial and gen Z consumers would expect an act of support for this critical moment in social justice and would reward it with future purchases and word of mouth. I tried to convey that not only was this the right thing to do just by virtue of being the right thing to do, but that it also made business sense as more and more consumers shopped with their conscience.

The response I received was shocking and nonsensical. “It would jeopardize our business. If we support Black Lives Matter now, we’ll be on the hook to support Hispanic Lives Matter or whatever else comes next.” (This from a company with a majority Hispanic labor force is concerning on multiple levels). 

It was also steeped in white saviorism. “The owners support an orphanage in Africa. It doesn’t get more Black than that.” 

I was told that my judgment would be questioned by leadership if I kept pushing the issue. The message was clear: Drop it. 

I liked my job. I was good at my job. I was a leader and mentor to my team. But I knew after this series of events that I would be leaving. There was no way that I could continue being the voice of a company that wouldn’t use its platform to stand up for what was right. 

It turns out that I’m not the only one who has had similar experiences since the swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer of 2020 and beyond. 

In an article from Vice, three people tell their stories of conflicts between their conscience and their jobs. 

Alex, 27, worked in digital marketing for a UK university and asked several times for the university to release a statement of solidarity. He was also reprimanded for posting on Instagram in support of BLM, an echo of my own experience. When the university finally did post, they were as vague as possible and didn’t back up their words with any meaningful action. Alex decided to resign after this experience. Alex is white and used his privilege to advocate for the Black students who expected more support from their university. 

Tia (name changed), 19, also shared a story about a lack of response to the Black Lives Matter movement by her large, national employer. At the time of the Vice article, she was still working there, but noted that she was the only Black employee in her workplace, and the silence of her company — and her coworkers — was causing her to question how long she could stay there.

Kayla (name changed), 26, brought yet another story of an employer not doing anything at all to acknowledge the movement or its employees of color. Kayla is from a multi-racial family and left her job because of the silence and lack of support. 

Mother Jones also featured a collection of stories about people who quit their jobs during the COVID pandemic, some of them in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Priya Krishna quit Bon Appétit Test Kitchen after the George Floyd protests and calls for transparency led to the Test Kitchen’s video contractors to start sharing their payment rates with each other for transparency’s sake. They found that the content creators of color were grossly underpaid while the white creators had much more lucrative contracts. After attempting to negotiate, several creators chose to quit rather than be treated as less than.

One of the most surprising stories was that of an Atlanta police officer, Tom Gissler, who was witnessing profiling and gentrification, describing it as like being in a mafia. 

If you tried to do a good job and say, “I’m going to be a good cop, and I’m going to obey commands,” they would abandon you, charge you, leave you behind, and not even think twice. If you didn’t obey the rules, then they were gonna charge you for that. And if you tried to remain quiet and do your job, you are going to be a piece of modern-day redlining that way, too. There was no way that I could exist and feel good about it. And because I didn’t have to—and that’s the privilege part—I just decided not to.

There are countless other stories just like these, untold. We are experiencing a radical shift in the way people engage with brands and companies, both in purchasing and employment.

The Privilege of Living Your Values

I had the privilege to walk away from a job due to my conscience. Not many people can do that. 

Our society is built to keep people about one paycheck away from poverty, so they must choose between keeping a steady income, access to healthcare, and feeding their family — or standing up for their beliefs and having the privilege to enforce a boundary like I was able to do, or like the other people like Alex and Tom, who used their privilege to take a stand.

If you have the means to do so, consider using a position of privilege (whiteness, in my case), to stand up for those who don’t have the ability. Point out inequality at work. Ask about the lowest paid workers. Speak up when your female coworker’s idea is ignored and then repeated by a man and accepted. Put your pronouns in your email signature.

If you’re job searching, you can check potential employers’ websites and social media to see what they were talking about in June 2020, and ask them about diversity and inclusion during the interview process. 

And if you can’t do these things, it’s not a failing on your part. It is more than okay if your focus is to survive and take care of yourself and those who depend on you. Those of us with privilege should be using it to protect and uplift you.

Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

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13 Life Lessons from a Half Marathon

I recently did something way out of my comfort zone: I ran a half marathon. I spent weeks training, running miles and miles, preparing for this huge day. The day did not unfold ideally, but I learned a lot from the experience and hope any of you working on a fitness goal (whether or not it’s running-related), a business goal, or any goal can learn from my experience too. After all, it’s all about goals, progress, and pacing yourself.

shoes

  1. Ask for Advice: I spent a couple of hours in the days before my race browsing through Pinterest, asking in my running groups on Facebook, and chatting with a coworker who has run several half marathons to ask the very important question: What do I need to take with me for race day? The answers varied but they were all really helpful and helped me to prep a race day kit that had all of my needs covered. I could have made up my own kit and flown by the seat of my pants without too much hardship, but asking people who had been there before gave me different perspectives and things to consider that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. For example: A long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt from a thrift store that you don’t mind never seeing again. Many people tossed their sweats along the path to be collected later (many race organizers donate the unclaimed items), but I stalwartly tied my sweatshirt around my body to hang onto it. A volunteer took it for me at the halfway point and said it would be in the finisher’s tent — but when I realized I had forgotten it as I got back into my car after the race, I couldn’t have made my legs go back out there if I’d wanted to. Goodbye, sweatshirt — and thank you, people who have done this before me.
  2. Nothing New on Race Day: This was said to me several times as I asked for advice. Should I wear compression socks for the race? Should I try an electrolyte drink I had never tried before? Should I do this, or that? The answer was always the same: Nothing new on race day. With this advice in mind, I picked an outfit made up of clothes that fit comfortably and that I knew I could run in. I packed snacks I knew I could eat on the run without upsetting my stomach. I ate a typical post-run lunch when I finished (spoilers: it was Chipotle). This advice relates to many aspects of life. Going for a job interview? Don’t wear brand new makeup you might be allergic to, or new shoes that pinch you in ways you didn’t anticipate. Getting ready to pitch your boss for a promotion or raise? Stick with your usual communication style vs. an approach that’s recommended in a one-off article you read about negotiating at work. Wedding day? Don’t skip breakfast if you usually eat it, or eat something if you normally skip. When it comes to a big day you’ve prepared for… stick with your routine. The time to try a different approach comes later, when it’s not all on the line.
  3. Find a Focus: I like to focus on a positive affirmation when I am doing something new, or difficult, or anxiety-inducing. For this race, my ongoing messages to myself included “I trained to finish” and “Unafraid of toil.” More on training to finish in the #4, but “Unafraid of toil” is derived from the description of Hufflepuff house in the Harry Potter universe. No matter what you’re up against, having a go-to positive message can help you remind yourself that the stress is temporary and you’ll get through it.
  4. Done is Better Than Perfect: When I repeated to myself, “I trained to finish,” it was a reminder that I had trained to be able to run 13.1 miles. I didn’t train to do it fast, I didn’t train to win, I trained to finish. And finish I did – dead last. I was dead last from almost the beginning of the race, and I didn’t mind a bit. I got applause when I crossed the finish line and it was just for me! It was awesome to complete a run longer than anything I had done before — and though I was exhausted, sore, and cold from the rain, I was also proud of myself. No matter what project you’re working on, remember that done is better than perfect. Perfectionism will paralyze you into not even trying, because why bother if you’re not going to get it right, or be the best? I weigh over 200 pounds, I run a 15 minute mile, and I just completed a half marathon — you can do that thing that’s scaring you.
  5. Get Your Head in the Game: I was really distracted during my half marathon, because I had just dropped my husband off at the airport the day before and he wouldn’t be there to see me finish like we had initially planned. It was a sudden change of plans due to illness in the family, and I felt not only worried but guilty for being out doing this half marathon for myself when I felt I should have been at home babysitting the phone for bad news and crying. I did end up crying, when I passed the ten mile mark, making this my official longest run even if I hadn’t finished. But my husband adamantly wanted me to complete the race and would have been upset on my behalf if I had decided to quit before I started. “You trained for this, you deserve to run it,” he told me. He believed in me enough for the both of us and got me through the moments when I was out of my head. Stay in your head!
  6. Make a (Flexible) Plan: When I set out to do a half marathon, my planning went something like this: I’m going to do a 10K. I found a 10K race in early October. Better look up a 10K training schedule since I’ve never run that much before. Should I do a half? I found a half at the end of October. Can I train for a half with this 10K in the middle? OH MY GOSH I CAN! And thus began my plan. Things did not go according to plan, as I totally nailed the first week of training, started skipping cross training in week two, and had given up both cross training and yoga days by the third week. So I ran a few times a week for several weeks leading up to my 10K, and then the subsequent three weeks leading up to the half marathon I was in rare form. I ran four or five days a week, including a long run on the weekends (eight miles two weeks before the race, and ten miles the week before). I made it happen even when training didn’t go perfectly — but having the built-in reality check of that 10K assured that I would have to show up and put in the effort on my way to the big goal. You can break down any goal into manageable baby steps and just go one day at a time until you achieve it. (A 90-day goal setting planner like BestSelfCo can help you break down big goals into weekly and daily targets – use this referral link to get $10 off any purchase until 12/15/17).
  7. Hold Yourself Accountable: An accountability plan is crucial to achieving your goal, whether it’s a race or a debt payoff or getting your degree. I actually kept my half marathon goal pretty quiet, telling only a few close friends rather than making a big announcement on my social media pages. I did announce my 10K plan so that my sudden uptick in weekly runs didn’t rouse any suspicions, but I kept the half quiet because publicly sharing your goals can actually hurt your chances of achieving them. So when you’re working on a big goal, loop a few close friends in to help motivate and keep you accountable to your plan (pick the friends that will actually hold you to your word, not help you make excuses), but try keeping the big announcement to yourself until it’s done. You can also hold yourself financially accountable (like I did when I spent money on my race registration or like someone who commits to applying to college might pay their application fee, or like somebody might sign up to attend a conference or book a vacation they keep putting off).
  8. Make Things Fun: Finding a way to put a little pep in your step is always better than the alternative! When running, I like to listen to music or run with a friend so we can chat. Since I had no friends ready and willing to run a chilly, rainy half marathon with me at dark o’clock in the morning, I loaded up a playlist with over three hours of music and set on my merry way. My phone died after mile 11. See #6 to make a flexible plan, and pack a backup battery and charger if you’re going to be running multiple apps on your phone. I used Charity Miles and Map My Run as well as Spotify. For non-running goals and plans, you could build in rewards (a new lipstick for each week you declutter one room of the house, a three day weekend vacation when you pay off a credit card, etc.) to keep things interesting and engaging. Because slogging along with nothing fun to do is, well, no fun.
  9. Hydrate: Just, all the time. Go get some water. Yes, right now.
  10. Find Your Power Groove: You might have a song that gets you super pumped up, a snack that gives you energy (try Delish Fish!), or a time of day when you work at your most efficient and effective. Whether you’re running a race, writing a book, or painting a bedroom, take note of when and how you do your best work. While you can’t guarantee conditions on race day, you can make the most of the things you can control and keep yourself in a positive forward-moving state of mind and body.
  11. Know When to Quit: While I didn’t end up quitting the race, at the back of the pack you tend to acquire a helpful cop or two driving by slowly to ask if you’re okay. “Yep, I’m good,” you will say — but for a moment you might just think about hopping in the car and considering 11 miles as good enough. There is a time and a place to quit running — if you are injured, if you are over-exhausted (especially in the heat), if you are violently ill. And there is a time and a place to quit on other projects too — if your goals change and the project no longer makes sense, if you leave one job to start another, if you decide that you don’t even like zucchini anyway so who cares if you stop weeding the garden this summer (true story). Know when it’s okay to quit and do it with confidence — but make sure you do it for a reason you won’t second guess forever.
  12. Get Professional Help: Between my 10K and my half marathon, I hired a running coach via Thumbtack, which is a great resource to find local professionals for basically anything. He ran and walked with me for a mile or two, observing my gait and pace, answering my questions, and giving me practical tips to improve my training for the half marathon. His most important advice that I wouldn’t have figured out on my own: run more frequently. Rather than running three times a week, he advised me to run upwards of five or six times a week in order to effectively improve my pace. And it worked — when I started to run more often during the week, my pace improved and my long runs didn’t seem as arduous. When it comes to planning for a goal, you can probably figure a lot of it out by yourself. Or you could spend a little money and get a professional to help you get back the hours you’d spend researching and planning on your own. See a therapist, hire a business coach, even hire a freelancer to help you handle day to day tasks for an online business or website. There’s always someone who can help make it easier.
  13. You’re Competing With Yourself: My first lap of the half, I was behind these two older women who were literally power walking the whole time. And I was behind them until about mile 5. Five miles of constant running from the start line and I start telling myself, “Really, you can’t outrun the power walkers?” But then when I did catch up to them, it was time for my first snack break and a quick recovery walk. I chatted with them and they said they were so proud of me and I was doing a great job, and they loved my hair and my headband, and I was gonna do great. I went from envy to appreciation in no time. They wished me luck as I finally pulled ahead and onward before they finished their lap (they did the two person relay but did it together instead of one runner at a time). The second lap, I was on the heels of a young woman in a bright yellow jacket. Yellow Girl, I called her. She had been just ahead of me the whole race. At one point I caught up to her and pulled ahead. “Hi!” I said to her, excited for a little human contact. “Hi,” she said back, with less enthusiasm than I mustered. She pulled ahead and I didn’t catch her again. She finished a couple minutes ahead of me and I completed my half marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes, dead last. And 100% victorious. Because I wasn’t racing Yellow Girl or the power walking ladies. I was proving I could run 13.1 miles. Success. Now I have a time to beat, because I will definitely be doing another half marathon, and I will be even more prepared.