Recently I completed my first half-marathon, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half, in Alexandria, VA. It was an amazing feeling to complete a goal I had been working toward both physically and mentally for several months. It wasn’t such an amazing feeling immediately after the race…I’m still a little sore! But that’s beside the point. Reflecting on the race and my training, I’ve come away with some insights that are applicable to career goals and work projects. Below I share five of my lessons learned.
- Set a chronological plan.
Have an end date in mind for your goal. For career goals, a date may be more fluid (such as next year or within three years), but for something like a project or a race, there is a specific deadline. Set your schedule and build in milestones according to this date.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more!
Stick to your plan, track your progress, and be proud of your accomplishments. At first, I was super excited about completing a 4-mile run. Before long, 4 miles was my “easy” day, before running 10 the next day. In the office, it can be pretty awesome to see a project really taking shape and hitting goals, or to start seeing signs that you’re developing expertise in a certain subject area.
- Don’t stress over bumps in the road.
Ultimately, problems are going to arise whether it’s in your training or while working on a project. The key is to not go crazy over these obstacles. Stop, reflect, and plan your next move. About midway through my training, I injured my knee. I was bummed that I had to stop running and diverge from my training plan. However, I knew if I pushed it too quickly, I would probably just make the situation worse. But that doesn’t mean lay dormant! Realign and continue to work toward your goal in other ways before you get back to full-steam. For a week, I iced my knee and did low-impact exercises before getting back on track.
For the workaholics out there, I don’t mean stress out and risk burning yourself out. Instead, this relates to your method of preparation, wherein preparing for the unexpected is critical. For example, if you’re pitching a project idea or presenting your findings, run through your presentation thoroughly beforehand. This will help you prepare for questions regarding specific details or coming from unexpected angles. Solid, confident responses show you know your stuff. Similarly, I frequently trained on trails with high elevation and varying terrain. So when it came to the flat, low elevation terrain of my race, I ran with relative ease.
- Remain confident!
Remember, this is YOUR goal. Throughout the race, some runners passed me but when I looked at my time, I was still beating my personal record. In essence, you don’t become a veteran or expert overnight. With practice, experience, and plenty of trial and error, you will eventually cross your own finish line.
Any other career advice or tips on working towards personal/professional goals? Please share in the comments below!