Ten months ago I set a goal to run a half marathon. At the time, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do it. Back then, the farthest I had ever run was 6 miles, less than half the distance of my goal. But I took the leap of faith. I thought if others can figure out how to do this, I can too. I simply needed a plan and the willpower to follow it.
On the way to my goal, I ran many, many miles, and I learned a lot about myself, goal setting, and the power of having a plan. If you’ve ever resisted creating a plan or following one because it felt too restrictive, I invite you to reconsider and read on. Because whether your goal is to run a half marathon, organize your home, or create a stress free holiday season, a plan allows you to get where you want to be with greater confidence and speed. Here’s why.
A plan maps out exactly what you need to do.
My half marathon training plan told me exactly what to do every day of my training. It mapped out when to run and how far to run, when to cross train, strength train and stretch, and when to rest. It ramped up the miles gradually, so while each new step was challenging, it was completely doable. As I used the plan I began to trust it, which meant I didn’t have to second-guess any of the steps. I simply followed the plan.
A plan helps you make time for what matters.
If you’ve decided not to go after something you want because you didn’t feel like you had the time, then a plan is your new best friend. Achieving a goal takes time and without a plan, it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much time it will take. But, when you have a plan, you can start to wrap your brain around how much time you need to set aside to make this important-to-you thing happen. For twelve weeks I planned my days around my training schedule. I got up earlier on the weekends to get in my long runs, and planned social get-togethers around my training. Without a plan, it would have been easy for the training to fall by the wayside and let other less important things take precedence on my calendar and in my life.
A plan allows you to focus on one small step at a time.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the enormity of a project you’re working on, chances are you were looking at too much of it all at once. Or worse yet, you were trying to do too much of it all at once. Here’s what I mean. Picture the room in your home that is most in need of an organizing intervention. Perhaps it’s the guest room or the storage area in your basement, attic or garage. Got it in mind? Great, now think about organizing all of it at once. Yikes, right? That’s exactly how I would have felt if I tried to run 13.1 miles 12 weeks ago. I would have felt completely overwhelmed—defeated before I even began. A plan allows you to break down something big and overwhelming into doable, bite-sized steps. What’s better, when you map out all the steps to your goal, it allows you to focus only on what you need to be doing at this point in time. You don’t have to worry about the closet in the guest room when you’re focused on the top dresser drawer, just as I didn’t have to worry about running 13.1 miles in week one, just the 4 miles my plan called for.
A plan allows you to be flexible.
One of the most surprising things about plans is that they actually allow you to be flexible and still achieve your goal. (This feels exactly 180 degrees from what you would expect, doesn’t it?) When you have a plan, you know the steps you need to take to arrive at your destination and you get to choose when to do them. So when something unexpected comes up (your kids get sick or you injure your ankle) you can rearrange things and still be sure to achieve your outcome. For example, the week I injured my ankle, I simply replaced running with cross training. This allowed me to keep up my stamina, endurance and muscle tone, I just did it a different way than the plan originally called for.
All throughout my training I kept asking my more experienced runner friends if this training plan was really going to work. Will I really be able to run 13.1 miles at the end of this? They assured me over and over again that it really would work. Guess what? They were right! (I have a finisher’s medal—and this photo—to prove it.)
photo credit: Kelly McClure
The big takeaway is this: if you want something different in your life—to achieve a new goal like organizing your home, completing a half marathon or enjoying a stress free holiday season—follow a plan created by someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish. When you do, you will achieve your goal with greater speed and confidence. And take it from me—there is no better feeling than achieving a goal that felt out of reach when you began. You can do it! Simply find a plan and follow it.
How do you feel about following plans? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.