Don’t Sprint the Marathon

I once worked with a company vice president who wanted to run a marathon. Although she wasn’t in great shape and her workload limited her preparation for a marathon, she thought that if she could lead a team across three continents, then she could run 26 miles. I advised her to begin running laps on a track and build from there. Instead she bought expensive shoes and high-tech gear and started intense workouts every day before work. In two weeks she was fatigued, suffered shin splints and still hadn’t run more than five miles. On marathon day, she quit 21 miles early.

Many of us are like this in our work and our personal lives. We’re obsessed with results, and we get frustrated when it doesn’t happen fast. You hire a marketing manager, expecting to increase profit next quarter. You hire a personal trainer, expecting to lose 20 pounds in a month.

This all-or-nothing mindset sets you up for failure, which is why it’s important to set smaller, more manageable goals that lead to your bigger one. Psychologists who analyze goal-setting recommend setting expectations that are not too easy but not so hard that you’re quickly discouraged. If you want to run a marathon, try a 5K or 10K first. To lose weight, aim for increments of a few pounds. By accomplishing these smaller steps, you stay motivated, confident and committed.

Ready to take on your next goal? Jim Rohn gives 4 smart tips for setting powerful goals.


This article appears in the January 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.


Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.

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