Sticking to One Goal at a Time


I want to run my fastest marathon ever. I want to do an unassisted pull-up. I want to easily shoulder press 25-lb dumbbells over my head. I want to do a handstand — the real deal, not a wimpy one against the wall.

And just like the greedy Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I want all these things right NOW.

But I must remember there was a reason Veruca was deemed a bad egg. Because she was impatient and selfish. And it’s the same with fitness goals. You can’t have ALL THE THINGS at once. Building the strength and speed to do what I want to do requires a great deal of time.

I’m about six weeks out from my next marathon. My training has generally being going well. I’ve been benefiting from personal training sessions wit at Bucktown Athletic Club, which have helped a lot. As long as I stay injury free and avoid major mishaps, I believe I will indeed run my fastest marathon ever.

But hitting this one big goal requires that I put a lot of my time and energy towards it. It’s been an awful lot of lacing up my running shoes and logging lots of miles on the Lakeshore path. That means I can’t spend as much time in the weight room with those dumbbells, or in the yoga studio practicing that handstand. Before I started training for the race, I had two sessions a week with Leo. With my marathon training schedule, I cut it down to once weekly.

Tackle one goal at a time Miss Ambitious. Makes sense, right? Then why am I so frustrated with myself for not making better progress on these other goals?

The Downsides of Being an Overachiever

Being an overachiever generally works well for me because it keeps me productively busy. If I didn’t have my to-do list of goals, I’d be slumped on my couch, buried under empty Cherry Garcia containers, polishing off yet another season of who knows what on Netflix.

My goals keep me striving towards what’s next; there’s never a dull moment because there’s another thing to accomplish!

Yet sometimes (more like oftentimes all the time), I find myself setting the bar too high for myself. I set too many goals that would be unrealistic to accomplish all at once — like shaving 20 minutes off my marathon time AND doing a pull-up AND nailing that handstand. If I had nothing to do but work out all day, I could maybe get all that done. But being the naturally ambitious person I am, you don’t even want to know the long list of personal and career-related goals I’m also striving towards.

Additionally, I get so focused on churning through these that I even forget to celebrate once I hit a particular goal. Because there’s always another one on the list, begging to be accomplished!

So that leaves me in a constant state of feeling unaccomplished and disappointed with myself. Which is SO incredibly silly. What’s the point of striving for something only to blow right past it once you get there? What’s the point of being so hard on yourself?

I can’t “turn off” my overachieving tendencies, but what I can do is try to focus on one achievement at a time. And then actually pat myself on the back once I get there. So right now, it’s this marathon thing. After race day (and some rest and celebratory pints of Cherry Garcia, of course), I can brush off some of these other goals and direct my attention to them.

Post marathon, I can get back to the gym and get more one-on-one time with the weights. If it takes me awhile longer to get to that pull-up than I had initially hoped for, that’s perfectly fine. What’s the big hurry? The weight room isn’t going anywhere.

What about you? Do you have a particular goal you’re working towards? Why not try a few sessions with a personal trainer to help you get there?

Photo Credit: Photo by Naphtali Marshall via Unsplash

betsy picBetsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter whose passion is telling the stories of entrepreneurs, brands and businesses that challenge the status quo. When she’s not biking or running all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym |