Goals are my best tool for staying motivated. I have macro goals—big things I want to accomplish—and micro goals that support those macro goals—small things that give me easy wins while making progress toward my macro goals.
Before last January, I had never really been A Runner™. I had run before, but mostly as a social thing where I would join some friends for a run from time to time. I would also occasionally run for exercise, but that was rare.
That changed last January when a friend invited me to hop into a running group with a bunch of other friends. It was the New Year, and I was feeling that post-holiday sluggishness after eating everything in sight for the past couple months.
"Sure, why not?"
Running is hard, but it was especially hard when I first started. My body just wasn't used to it, so everything hurt. The only way to keep myself motivated was to set some goals.
My first goal was pretty easy: Run and finish a 10k race with some friends in April. But as that race got closer, I realized I would need to adjust this goal to keep motivated.
I knew that if my only goal was "finish a 10k", then I would lose motivation after I finished that race.
So I set a new macro goal: "Finish this same 10k race with a sub-8:00-per-mile pace." Now I had one year to improve my pace by a little more than one minute per mile.
But that's a pretty daunting macro goal, so I set some micro goals to support it:
- MACRO: 10k (6.2 miles) – Sub-8:00 pace
- Micro: 5k (3.1 miles) — Sub-7:00 pace
- Micro: 1 mile – Sub-6:00 pace
- Micro: 400m (1 lap around a track) – Sub-60 seconds
All of these micro goals are challenging, but I don't think any of them are out of reach—that keeps me motivated to keep training.
A couple weeks ago, I hit my macro goal, so now I need a new one. I haven't achieved any of my micro goals yet, but training for them directly contributed to finally achieving my macro goal.
That’s the value of micro goals—you can win directly by achieving them, and you can win indirectly by achieving the macro goal they support.
So where do you start?
- Stop and think about your current macro goal for your career. If you have one, make sure it's achievable. If you don't have one, now is the time to set it. An example of a good career macro goal might be, "Become a people manager in the next two years".
- Once you've defined your macro goal, support it with micro goals. These goals are related to your macro goal, but much smaller in scope, and thus easier to accomplish. Using that same example, some micro goals might be, "Take a leadership training course in 2018” and "Find at least one junior team member to mentor this year”.
When you set your macro goal and back it up with micro goals, then you can focus on smaller wins with those micro goals while still making progress toward your macro goal.