It’s a new year and a fresh beginning, yet blank slates and paralysis often go hand in hand. People have the innate desire to grow and live a better life, yet resistance always impedes the pursuit. Each year millions of people create resolutions and set goals, however, only a fraction of those people will achieve their goals. Knowing how to overcome the resistance and gain momentum is the number one key to achieve any goal. A few years ago I discovered several truths about achieving meaningful goals.
To be honest, I always thought New Year’s resolutions seemed silly. In most cases, resolutions fall into the half-hearted, wishful thinking category and I decided it was better to turn my back on resolutions instead of feeling disappointed if my resolutions faltered. My perspective on goal setting evolved a few years back when I learned how to achieve seemingly impossible goals.
In the spring of 2012, after the daylight savings time change I desired to breakout of my winter slumber and get outside. I realized I had enough light to start hiking after I got off work. I decided I would start climbing the Manitou Incline once a week. The Incline is an old, mile-long, cog railroad scar which literally runs 2000 vertical feet straight up the side of Manitou Mountain. I didn’t choose to start hiking for vague reasons like getting into shape, loosing weight, or impressing the single, outdoorsy ladies. I chose to hike because I am fully myself when I’m on the side of a mountain.
Since elementary school I have loved climbing the high peaks of Colorado. Each summer I set out to bag more summits. By committing to my weekly training hike I realized I could push my limitations and reach a higher potential.
1. Goals should fuel our passion and push us towards our fullest potential.
After the first few weeks on the Incline I started using a spreadsheet to record how often I completed the hike and how long it took me. I know spreadsheets are about as boring as watching paint dry, but tracking progress is key to achieving any goal.
2. Specific and quantifiable goals are tangible and can easily be tracked.
Over time I began tracking even more data such as the number of people I passed on the way up and the number of people who passed me. As I tracked my progress I realized I became quicker and I naturally wanted to shave off a few seconds off the climb each week, so I started hiking multiple times a week.
3. Start slow and let momentum do the work.
When summer arrived I climbed mountains almost every weekend (29 peaks throughout the year) and continued hiking the Incline after work and sometimes before I went to the office, too. In June I set a goal to climb more than 200,000 vertical feet by the end of the year, but as I pushed myself I had to push my goal. In August I decided a quarter million vertical feet sounded better than 200,000 so I upped my goal. In October when I analyzed my progress I realized 300,000 vertical feet was just out of my projection for the end of the year so I upped my goal once more.
4. Goals should push us outside of our comfort zone but still remain feasible.
To reach my final goal, one Saturday in mid-October I climbed the Incline seven times in a row which equates to 14,000 vertical feet over the course of 26 miles. When winter set in I persisted with my routine even when the temperatures dropped below zero. I enjoyed pushing through the pain because I was making progress towards a defined goal. I confronted resistance and my momentum carried me through.
On December 30, 2012 I ascended the Incline one last time to gain 300,603 vertical feet for the year.
If I would have made a New Year’s resolution to climb 300,000 vertical feet for the year I don’t think I would have succeeded, because I had no momentum and the resistance would have defeated me before I even started. I focused on reaching my potential and built up to achieve an insurmountable goal.
Since 2012 I have continued to set ambitious goals. Each year I push towards my fullest potential, and each year I achieve goals which I would have classified as impossible prior to uncovering the secrets of goal setting. In 2013 I hiked nearly 500 miles across eight mountain ranges on the Colorado Trail. A month after finishing my hike I ran a half marathon to the summit of Pikes Peak and finished in the top ten percent of the runners, regardless of the fact it was only my second half marathon. In 2014 I successfully hiked 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’d say these achievements are pretty incredible for a man born with cerebral palsy, and I owe part of my success to my discovery of proper goal setting.
It is my hope that you would set and pursue seeming impossible goals for 2015. Perhaps these four pointers will help you in the coming year like they have helped me. Achieving ambitious goals is never easy, but life isn’t meant to be easy it’s meant to be fulfilling.
Cheers to a Bright and Challenging 2015!