Can marathon training strategies be used for setting other goals in life? I think they can and I am going to experiment with it in 2017. Read on if you are interested :)
Yellowstone Park in July. Credit: Vasily Vasinov
I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions because an annual calendar change didn’t seem like a worthy occasion to re-evaluate my life and set goals. Also, setting yearly goals was never part of my upbringing. Sure, there were always “goals” like finishing high school with good grades, going to college, raising money for my startup, crushing it at work, etc. Those are really different kinds of goals. It would be more accurate to call them societally predetermined outcomes. There is no mental effort in setting those goals. And since I am a privileged white male, there is really no life-altering struggle in accomplishing them.
The way last year went made me rethink goal setting and New Year’s resolutions.
2016 kind of sucked for me personally.
It sure did have some highlights: going to England with my wife in the summer and finishing a marathon were amazing experiences. However, overall too many things went wrong. I felt burnt out at work starting in early March and my days were filled with anxiety and stress about both the important and the mundane. I didn’t put any effort into my mental well being or becoming a better person. I also didn’t grow professionally as much as I wanted to due to burnout, which lead to even more anxiety.
Running was the only consistent thing that I worked on in 2016 and I really liked it. I dropped 15 pounds and became a lot healthier because of it. Running became a great habit of conquering distances and de-stressing four days a week even after I completed my dream of finishing a marathon on June 18.
A few days ago, during a relaxing ski trip in Colorado I was reflecting about the past year trying to figure out what my aspirations for the next few years should be because let’s face it: nobody’s getting any younger and I still want to accomplish quite a few things in my lifetime.
That’s when it struck me: why not apply the same technique I used for completing a marathon to other aspects of my life? There are many areas that I want to become better at: writing, engineering, science, awareness, sharing, mountain biking, skiing, running, photography, and many others. It’s obviously impossible to tackle all of them at once. The least I can do is pick a few things that I want to improve and try to use the same strategy I used for becoming a better runner: set a concrete goal, come up with a realistic schedule, follow it religiously (I brought running gear with me on many trips throughout the year), and, finally, achieve the goal.
I know that this technique definitely works as I was able to successfully execute it even though I’m terrible at being disciplined and committing to big goals. This year I’d like to experiment and set more goals to work towards. One can even call those goals New Year’s resolutions :)
One of the things I want to get better at during this year, which is also one of the things I love doing, is writing. I wrote tons of fiction as a teenager, which later turned into writing articles and essays on the topics of politics, philosophy, and technology. It greatly saddened me to discover that my standalone blog didn’t get any new posts in 2016. It turns out that I didn’t get to write for pleasure at all meaning that I’ve probably only gotten worse at writing. The only writing I did was at work. The problem is that design documents, day-to-day emails, and IM chitchat don’t count as meaningful writing practice.
All that being said, I want to make consistent writing one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to write a blog post every week and if I succeed I will really have something to show for this year. I’m planning to cover the following topics in my writing: philosophy, society, running, corporate culture, software engineering, science, and perhaps a few others. If you are interested and would like to check out this new experiment follow me on Medium or Twitter or add my RSS feed to your reader.
Happy New Year! I hope you have a great one.