From the Starting Line: A Journey to Unlocking Potential
How Setting SMART Goals and Tracking Progress Leads to Incremental Growth and Success
💎 DESIGN: Sharpening Your Edge
It's been a decade since I first laced up my running shoes and embarked on a journey to complete each of the standard running races, all in one year.
I have stayed fit in the intervening years, but for some reason, I found myself drawn back to the starting line. In December of 2022, I started running again, with the goal of completing a 5K every month of 2023.
However, when I shared my goal with my physical therapist and trainer John, a former MMA fighter and the former professional trainer to a professional hockey team, he challenged me. My "5K per month" goal seemed arbitrary and lacked a meaningful way to track progress. I thought I would measure my speed race to race, but John probed further, "are you deliberately training for speed? And if you are, more importantly, how are you measuring what your body is capable of?"
I was taken aback. I had not considered measuring my body’s potential for incremental speed in any sophisticated way, other than my unsophisticated assessment of "I'm feeling tired." John's questioning gaze made me realize that my goal was not Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART).
John and I went to work, developing a new strength and training plan that would focus on running faster 5Ks with the SMART goal of finishing in the top 3 of my racing age division. As part of the plan, we agreed that I should buy a heart rate monitor so that I could know empirically what my body was truly capable of as I pushed it to higher speeds.
The heart rate monitor has proven to be a game-changer. It has allowed me to see the tangible results of my hard work and training. It's like having a GPS for my heart, guiding me on my journey to the finish line. With every race, I see my progress and am motivated to keep pushing myself to new heights; I now have the evidence of my body’s potential for incremental speed.
“Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance-you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.” — Doris Brown Heritage
The lessons learned from my running experiment extend far beyond the road. In our everyday lives, we often set arbitrary goals without considering the measures necessary to track our progress. Just like my heart rate monitor, we need to find ways to measure our progress and hold ourselves accountable. Whether it's in our personal or professional lives, setting SMART goals and tracking our progress is the key to unlocking our incremental potential, which is why I often push my teams to assess the “incremental value” or “incremental growth” of any project and/or opportunity.
So, let's lace up our metaphorical running shoes and embark on our own journeys. Let's challenge ourselves to set SMART goals and track our progress, pushing ourselves to new heights and reaching our incremental potential. The starting line is only the beginning of an incredible journey.