Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

What a Goal Really Is and How You Can Get to Yours

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  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Read 1 book a month
  • Be a better spouse, parent, friend
  • Finish school
  • Get a better job
  • Save money
  • Learn a second language
  • Floss

These are a few examples of goals. And this is the time of year we set them. Which isn’t bad. But as most of us have experienced, setting goals isn’t always good either.

Our problem isn’t the goals we set. Most of us aim high. Most of us have an ideal of the person we want to become.

The problem isn’t the goal. Our problem is in the understanding of what we need to do.

What is a Goal?

According to, a goal is:

the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; the aim; the end.

The word goal derives from the Old English word “gǣlan” which referred to the end of a race. It was typically marked in some special way. But it was the place that everyone was running towards. It was the place at which everyone knew the race would be over.

A goal was a finish line. A stopping point.

If you haven’t run a marathon it isn’t because you didn’t know where the finish line was. Or that the point of the race is to get to the finish line.

If you haven’t finished a marathon it is because of all the running you have to do to get to the finish line.

photo via Creative Commons by the Office of Governor Patrick

photo via Creative Commons by the Office of Governor Patrick

The Point of a Running a Race isn’t to Win

When we think of races, we think of the Olympics. We think of incredible, world-class athletes. We think of gold medals. In these types of races, there is only one goal. To win.

And if this is how you view any type of race, you will never run one, because you will never win.

But if you go back to the origins of the word, the goal isn’t a podium or a medal. The goal is literally the place where you finish. It marks the end of the run.

The purpose of the goal is to let you know which direction to run and when you have run enough.

How to Run 13.1 Miles

“You have to be crazy. I could never run that far. Why would I want to? It sounds painful. What a stupid idea.”

This was my response when friends’ suggested I run a half-marathon. It is probably the same response given by most people.

But my friends shamed me into signing up. I succumbed to peer pressure. I trained. I ran the race. And I loved it.

The beautiful thing about these races is that you run along with 10,000 to 20,000 other people. There are so many people there is always someone ahead of you and someone behind you. There is always someone faster and someone slower.

You quickly learn that the race isn’t about how you compare to others. The only purpose of the race is to finish. To get to the end. To find yourself at the goal.

And you quickly understand that there is only one way to get there. Some run. Some jog. Some walk. A few run so fast, I would call it sprinting. Good for them.

But for every single person, no matter how fast they do it, the process is the same. It begins by taking the first step. And then taking step after step until you are done. One step at a time.

You run 13.1 miles by taking many small little steps over and over and over.

The Secret Formula

1. Start
2. Take a first step.
3. Take the next step after that.
4. Repeat.
5. Overcome obstacles.
6. Finish.

It isn’t really a secret is it? You have known this your entire life. The reason we don’t do it is because taking steps is hard. It takes time. It often hurts. It costs us something. And results come slowly.

But this is the only way you will ever finish any race worth running.

Becoming through Habits

Our goals typically fail for one reason. We refuse to take steps. We don’t want to take step number 1 or step number 9,999. We want to take the step just before the finish line.

Our goals are about who we want to be. But our goals only show us the direction to move in. They only indicate when we are done.

The only way to become is to do something small and simple over and over and over again. To do it so many times that it becomes second nature. To do it so many times that this one small thing adds up to something much bigger.

In other words, the way to become is through habits.

What habit will you begin in 2014?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

P.S. The beautiful thing about this process is that you not only become through habits, but once you make some progress in your becoming, the process itself become a habit.

In other words, the more you do it, the more you will do it.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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6 Replies

  1. Love it. I’m all about goals. I’m rereleasing my ebook about goals, so I’m immersed in this topic fully right now. One thing I’d suggest is to make sure your priorities and goals are in alignment or it’s easy to get off track there.

  2. I’ve got three habits I’m working on developing, a check sheet to track them, in an attempt to achieve goals. So far having a small number and a method of accountability has been the best help. It’s not just written down, but my success is quantifiable, and offers a visual representation of my progress.

  3. Since the goal is the desired end, yes, priorities are important to understand. Can’t wait to see the book.

  4. Like the mile markers in a race?

  5. I haven’t run a race, but yes, I believe they would be similar.

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