Reach your goals with a marathon training approach

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In my experience as an attorney and a parent, I notice that many people have goals and a never ending "to-do" list.  When acquaintances find out that I am an Estate Planning attorney, I frequently hear that Estate Planning  "is something I've been meaning to do," "has been on my to-do list for years," or is "is on my bucket list."  The same responses apply to other goals like becoming debt-free, getting a higher degree, or starting to save for long-term goals.  

I wanted to apply some helpful and actionable steps you can take to reaching your goals with a marathon training approach.  

I am a runner.  Well, I enjoy running.  I ran my first full marathon in 2010 and have run many races since then.  Before my full marathon, I had never run a race before.  In the summer of 2009, for some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to run a full marathon.  Maybe I was a little ambitious in deciding on that goal instead of starting with a shorter distance race, but with each race, you must go through a similar process and train.  

The first step is to create a plan.

For marathon training, you may have heard of the "Couch to Marathon" plan.  What these types of plans do is equip individuals with no background or experience with the schedule and regimen to train for a marathon and end with a finisher's medal.  To search for plans, you can go online and find resources about what you need to get started.  

For other goals:  There are many online resources you can consult to do some preliminary research about the field.  In this digital age with countless websites, you will want to be mindful about the sources you use; the best bet is to use unbiased and well-known sources.  For instance, for legal matters, the State Bar frequently will have helpful information on how to get started.  Doing a little bit of research will help you be educated so that you are ready for the second step.

The second step is to find help.

For marathon training, one of my best tips is to find an accountability partner.  After you've decided that you want to reach a goal, having someone to take the journey with you makes a world of difference.  An accountability partner is someone who helps you stay committed to your goal.  There are many factors to consider in choosing this person: if you trust them, if they have experience with the goal, if they have time to stay in touch with you, and if you get along well.  For three of my races, I went through Team in Training; it was fantastic to have experienced mentors and a group going through the same journey.

For other goals, you also don't want to go it alone.  It is prudent to find choose a professional to consult with.  This is important because while we can be good at what we do, we don't know everything.  We also don't know what we don't know.   You will want to choose a trusted advisor based on their experience, their fit with you, and level of service provided.  

The third step is to be open and honest with yourself and others.

For marathon training, the process is long, can be difficult, and requires you to be self aware.  You will need to stay healthy, safe, and strong.  This requires you to know what your restrictions and limitations are.  You may need to learn how to listen to your body's cues.  When something doesn't feel right, don't disregard it.  Talk to a doctor and other experienced runners to ask questions and seek guidance.

For other goals, you need to trust the professional you are working with and disclose the information necessary to understand your wishes and preferences.  You can only reach the optimal result if you take the process seriously and for most goals in life, it should not just take one step.  Let's use creating a Financial Plan as an example.  The Financial Advisor you have chosen may communicate with you several times to gather more information (a process called "fact finding") to further understand your needs and make a preliminary plan.  By being honest with the Financial Advisor, he/she is able to give you the best advice based on your specific needs.

The fourth step is to build up to your goal.

For marathon training, start small with your practice runs and then increase your distance over time.  Doing this allows you to strengthen your body and make sure it is adequately prepared.  It also allows you to mentally prepare yourself for the challenge.  Sometimes, you will hear about people who decide out of the blue to run a race.  They may finish, but they are more likely to suffer injuries and significant post-race pain because they did not go through the whole process.  

For other goals, when you take things each step at a time in manageable chunks, it becomes less overwhelming.  With Estate Planning, for instance, there are many different ways to customize a plan and options that may fit your situation more than others.  My process is to have clients complete an Estate Planning questionnaire.  Then we are able to productively discuss their choices and follow-up questions to design their plan.  Finally, we can finalize and execute their plan.  When you break the process down, you can ensure that you've thought everything through and haven't missed any key details by rushing it.  This allows you to take your time, but stay focused on the goal at hand.  

The process is just as important as the result.  Not all results and finished products are equal (and it's not always readily apparent until it's too late).

The fifth step is to meet your goal with confidence.

For a marathon, hopefully, you will arrive at race day well-rested, excited, and with a sense of relief that you prepared the best that you could.  This generally includes tapering down in the days before the race, having a good dinner with carbs the night before, and getting as much sleep the night before that you can.  Though there may be external forces out of your control, you have done what you can to be in your best race shape.

For other goals, when you have respected the process and taken a reasoned approach, the effort you have put in will work for you.  You can truly find that sense of relief and confidence in what you have done.  You have not only completed what you set out to do, but you have also done it well.  

The last step is that meeting your goal isn't the last step.

For marathon training, the race isn't the last step.  When you've crossed the finish line, you don't just stop right there.  You need to let your body cool down, stretch, and give yourself some time to recover.  After you've finished a race is also a good time to think of marker points in the future when you can "check-in" and see how you're doing. 

For other goals, whether you've finished a financial plan, Estate Plan, or anything else, it is prudent to keep up with it.  The goal is the bucket and you need to make sure the bucket is filled with the right things and checked in on from time to time.  When you take the time to do maintenance, you can truly ensure that what you've done fits you and you stay in good goal setting health.

I hope this has been helpful for you.  Think of your needs, set your goals, make a plan, find others to keep you accountable, and stick with it.  No great goal can be accomplished immediately and without work.  When people offer you a quick and simple solution, remember that what you get out of it is determined by what you put in. 

On your mark, get set, GOAL.