Where Do You Want To Go This Year?

I’ve been listening to the podcast Startup a lot, recently, and by “a lot,” I mean I’ve been chain-listening them, making it through five to six episodes a day, like a Battlestar Galactica fan on a bad jag. Maybe don’t click away from this blog post, just yet, if you’ve never listened to Startup, but as soon as you’re done here, go there. I’ve been obsessed because, like any narcissist, I can’t look away from something that reflects my experience. Startup follows, well, a podcasting company called Gimlet Media as it moves through the throes of starting up. Here at Chris Bagg Coaching Group I’ve been fascinated and terrified by all the same things, recently: how do you expand? How do you hire employees? How do you find athletes for your new employees? How do you manage communication? Compensation? How do you stay true to what you’ve done that’s gotten you to this point in the first place? How do you navigate the law? What does a business plan even look like?

Whenever I start to lose my way in the forest of these questions, I do something my wife, Amy, suggests: “Look at your to-do list. I know it’s too big, OK? We all have too much to do. OK, are you looking at it? Pick THREE things, three things you know you can do today, and commit to getting them done today.” Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s 5:54 on a Monday evening, and “FINISH BLOG POST FOR NEW WEBSITE” is burning a hole in my conscience. Where has the day gone? Well, that’s easy. There’s training, talking to athletes, answering emails, managing finances, having meetings with prospective coaches and prospective athletes. If I stick with it, I’ll get this post finished and make good on my list for the day.

So what’s at work here? It’s pretty simple, actually: it’s just another version of goal-setting, something athletes everywhere are doing in this inaugural month of the year. January is a magical month for athletes, I think. The ashy vestiges of last season, December, are gone, and a whole clean year stretches ahead, punctuated by races you and your coach have picked out for 2016. There’s a reason TrainingPeaks calls this time of year #dreamingseason, a wonderful description of that feeling that anything is possible, and achieving your goals is simply a matter of articulating them and then letting them occur.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Your athletic year, my athletic year, like my business, requires not only clear goals but obvious steps along the way to those goals. I’ve worked with athletes who treated goal-setting as simply writing down “get top-ten at Nationals,” and then say they’re done. Goal-setting is a dynamic exercise: the end result stays the same, but the manner of getting there changes regularly. My sports psychologist, Brian Baxter, at SPINw (Sports Pyschology Instiute Northwest: go look them up, he’s the best), has a great way of setting goals that I’ve adopted (many of my athletes, reading this, will say “Ah, that’s where he got this). Ready? OK, here we go.

Grab a piece of paper. At the top left, write “Long Term Goals, to be completed by ______________.” In that blank, fill in something like “End of season 2018.” That’s right. We’re setting goals that you won’t accomplish until just under three years from now! This is a great chance for you to think about this. Just what DO you want to accomplish by then? Complete your first Ironman? Qualify for Kona? Upgrade to a certain cyclocross category? Lose ten pounds? This is a super long term goal, but it should be your BIG goal, maybe the one you don’t like saying to people. Here are mine:

Long Term Goals (by end of season 2018): 

• Win AT LEAST one big race (Any WTC 140.6 or 70.3, Wildflower, Challenge Penticton, or Challenge Almere).
• Develop a race-to-win mentality
• Qualify for Kona as a professional.

Those are pretty lofty goals! They scare me, putting them out there, but that’s what your long term goals should do: motivate you, provide a sense of purpose and perspective.

Next, right down “This Year: 2016.” Write down what you’d like to have accomplished by the end of 2016. Imagine it’s a year from now; you’re sitting by your fireplace, drinking mulled wine and eating a candy cane. What have you done that you’re incredibly proud of? Has it moved you in the direction of your long-term goals? Because that’s really important: this year-end goal has to have moved you a step closer to your big, long-term goals. 

My 2016 goals:

• Win Wildflower
• Threshold bike power to 400 from 373.
• Run 2:55 at Ironman Mont-Tremblant
• Swim sub-25 consistently at 70.3, and sub-51 at 140.6 distances, respectively.

Next, write down “Monthly: by ____________.” In the blank, fill in the date one month from today. Set three goals. Each one should set you on a course to one of your yearly goals.

My January Goals (by 2/11/2015):

• Make every Tuesday/Thursday C-Velo class (a high-intensity bike studio here in Portland; check them out, because it’s awesome).
• Weigh 176 pounds (down two pounds from my current 178).
• Swim 4900 yards in the USMS one-hour postal on 1/31.

Now, write down “Weekly: by ______________.” In the blank, fill in the date one week from today. Write down 2-3 things YOU KNOW you can accomplish (full-circle, right?) this week that will put you on course for your monthly goals.

My Weekly Goals (by 1/18/2015):

• No dessert!
• Fuel your bike sessions properly (25-50g of carbohydrate in the hour beforehand, and consume a recovery drink afterward!
• Workout first (before other work like email) on 1/11, 1/13, 1/16, and 1/17.

Finally, write down “Daily Habits of Mind.” These aren’t goals, per se, but things you want to remember during the week, to repeat, like a mantra. Mine, recently, is “Why not me?” Why shouldn’t I win a race? What do my competitors have that I don’t? Possibly quite a lot, but I’ll never know if I don’t honestly think I can win a race.

There we go. Done. Now comes the tough part: repeat this exercise once a week. Sound onerous? Just give it a shot. You’ll be amazed what the you of next week thinks of your goals from the previous week. You’ll also be incredibly proud of the goals you managed to accomplish, and the ones you didn’t will leer up at you from the sheet of paper. Your long-term and yearly goals are unlikely to change, but don’t take the cheater’s path of copy-and-pasting them to this week’s goals sheet. Completely rewrite them, so you get the experience of seeing yourself making the goal. They’ll become more real (and more scary) each time you commit them to text. Your monthly and weekly goals, and your daily habits of mind are likely to change each time you do the exercise, but make sure you don’t let yourself off the hook with those monthly goals as you make new ones!

So this is what I’m doing, then, in my sporting life, but also in my business life. CBCG is growing. More then a decade ago, talking with my dad about what I wanted to do, eventually, I said something like “I don’t know…I guess I’d like to own my own business.” Here I am, having completed a long-term goal for my life. I have goals for each of my coaches this year, and goals for my athletes. Taken together, they make a marvelous map, like those “where we fly” maps in the backs of airline magazines: so many destinations, so many routes, all of them wonderful, all of them taking us, inexorably, into the future.