I'm Helen, and I'm passionate about helping you take steps towards positive changes in your life.

When Goals Don’t Go To Plan

Just over a year ago I’d had every intention of running the Ashby 20 in 2014, a road running race around Ashby. I’d done a few half-marathons, was running regularly and fairly optimistic I could get round the 20 miles, with some additional training. Then last August I started getting back pain; something I’ve experienced briefly before but never to the point that it has stopped me doing things for long. This time it decided to hang around!

During the first few months of back trouble, I thought I could achieve my goal of running the Ashby 20. I still believed that up until around November, convinced that I would be able to make up for lost training time somehow. In fact I continued to try a few sneaky runs, which not surprisingly aggravated my back pain and set me back. As time went on, I realised the Ashby 20 simply wasn’t going to happen for me, the physiotherapist told me in no uncertain terms that I had to stop running and only re-start when my backache had subsided for more than just a few days. This year, I watched from the side-lines!

Of course I’m not the first person to experience a goal going to pot and people have failed to reach far more ambitious goals in much more dramatic ways. However, it is something that can affect anyone, no matter how big or small the goal may seem, from missing a promotion to giving up on a study plan. In fact, research shows that New Year’s resolutions are often doomed to fail, with only a minority of people achieving the goals they set themselves.

healthy lifestyle sports woman running up on stone stairs sunris

“One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” -Henry Miller

It can be useful to have some tactics up your sleeve to help, when goals don’t work out.

  • Some tips include:

  • Acknowledge your feelings about the situation. When things don’t go to plan you may feel emotions such as blame, frustration, disappointment or even guilt. Challenge any negative emotions or thought patterns you have, what would a good friend say to you? Be kind to yourself. While there may be a temptation to beat yourself up with a big stick, try not to! If you have learned something, that could prove invaluable in the future.

  • Think about what prevented you reaching your goal. All sorts of factors can come into play and it can take time to figure out what went wrong. This can include factors both in and out of your control such as; a goal being unrealistic, lack of motivation, a goal not being aligned with personal values, lack of clarity, the influence of others or perhaps just not getting started in the first place!

  • Look for positives in your situation. What have you learned? Spend time with positive people who energise you and give you new ideas or suggestions. There are plenty positive stories to read about inspirational people who have faced setbacks. Allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity for too long will only fuel your inner critic; that voice inside your head that tells you that you can’t do something, or shouldn’t try a different approach!

  • Find time to relax – it can take time to find your motivation again when you have had a setback, give yourself a bit of time and space. Do things that you enjoy and make you feel uplifted and energised e.g. spend time outdoors or engross yourself in a hobby you love.

  • Re-create your goal, taking into account anything that may have changed e.g. your values or priorities. If you choose to strive for the same goal again you will have learnt some valuable lessons. If you decide to change tack, you can have fun creating a new goal! Goal setting doesn’t necessarily have to start with sitting at a desk or laptop, there are a whole range of different goal setting techniques available. Collages can be extremely powerful in helping to set goals and visual representations can really bring words to life. Visualise yourself achieving your goal, how will it feel when you get there?

“A little set back like a lost lander should not discourage visionaries.” -Colin Pillinger.

Get going and remember to celebrate, give yourself rewards along the way, it is the small steps that count! As for me, my back is very slowly improving so I have started doing just a few gentle, short jogs, a couple of times a week. To aid the healing process I have taken up Pilates, re-designed my work set-up, take regular breaks from working at my pc, found a great osteopath and randomly engage in bizarre stretching exercises, much to the amusement of my family!

It may be quite some time before I am able to run as I was before, but I’ve discovered there are some positives in not running competitively. I am enjoying jogging without a watch, no ‘bleep’ when I set off or monitoring of my pace and no anxiously waiting at the start line before a race. Above all, I’m learning to be patient!

Thanks for reading my blog. I’d love to hear any comments you have about your own goals, particularly when they haven’t gone to plan!