Whether we’re working for a big organisation or we’re taking part in a sport or fitness regime, we’re constantly being told we should be setting goals, and it’s true, having a purpose helps you to focus your work or your workouts. Often the acronym SMART is used to explain how we can set appropriate goals, appropriate to where we are at that moment in time. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or attainable or agreed), Relevant (or realistic), Timely (or time based). A simple SMART goal would be ‘I will lose 5lb of body weight within 6 months’, but who’s to say that this is in fact a SMART goal. For instance, who is the person, are they actually overweight in the first place or could they lose more body weight, is the timeline actually realistic and how will they achieve it. Clearly we need to dig deeper into the goal setting psyche of this person and understand more about their lifestyle and motivation.
Clearly there is a place for SMART goals, but SMART goals are more suited to short term goals, i.e. within that year. I would argue that there is also a place for THICK goals, more long term goals. Theoretically possible, Highly ambitious, Idealistic, Creative, Keep aiming for it. A THICK goal would be, for instance, somebody running their first 10k in 40 minutes setting their goal for a future 10k at 30 minutes. Many people would look at that person and think they were being very creative with their goals, but, whilst highly ambitious and a nice ideal for that person, it is theoretically possible and if they keep trying it may well come off. Having said that, the fact that they are highly ambitious means that there is a possibility the THICK goal will not be achieved, but in aiming high the person in question may well break 35 minutes and be content with that.
My point is that you should not be too limiting in your goal setting, don’t just think about what you’re capable of now but also think of what you would like to become good enough to achieve in the future. THICK goals should be highly ambitious but still have a probability of achievement. There would be no point in me setting a THICK goal of running the first sub 2 hour for the Marathon, that just isn’t going to happen, but setting a goal of being the first man in my age group might well be achievable, even if I have to wait until I’m 95.
You can still have your SMART goals to keep you ticking along, after all you should revise goals regularly as you achieve them and aim for the next step, but there is no harm in having an extra ambitious THICK goal in the background. I should know I’ve had a few, some I’ve achieved even if it’s taken me many years beyond what most people would have given up on, some I haven’t achieved, but it’s having THICK goals that’s kept me going and along the way I’ve scored a few SMART goals that may not have been SMART if I hadn’t been THICK.
So, you may ask, what were some of my THICK goals? Well here’s three of them:
To win the Surrey Cross Country Championship - I never achieved this as a Senior, my best position being 7th. However, in 2005 I won the Surrey Masters Cross Country Championship.
To win a National Championship - I got close, gaining two silver medals with Belgrave at the National 12 stage. But, as a Master, I’ve achieved this with Herne Hill and as an individual.
To represent my country - lets face it, I was never close as a Senior, though I was good enough to gain Area representation. Finally, at 41, I got to represent my country.
So whilst I didn’t quite achieve the goals I was aiming for, by keeping the desire burning I did achieve an alternative version of those goals, and I’m rightly proud of that, plus there are all the other thing’s I’ve achieved as an athlete that, perhaps I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had my THICK goals to keep driving me forward.
Enough about goals, time to update you on what I’ve been up to. Last time I updated you I was having a tough time with my knee. I’ve been doing lots of shorter runs since then and it seems to be paying off, I’m getting less pain in the knee and even managed two 45 minute runs either side of a 5k race, without having to stop to stretch out the leg, the foot’s still giving me problems though. However I’m training hard in my bid to make Herne Hill Harriers Masters Road Relay team. This Saturday I ventured to Pennington Flash for another go at the Park Run, I was hoping to post a good result to lift my confidence for Sutton Park, also I figured it was time I got back in the habit of winning races. The good news, I won and equalled my M45 course record. Confidence not yet sky high, but I’ve climbed a few rungs on the ladder, time to think about another THICK goal!