Sprinting to the Starting Line

Finish-Start-RoadCelebrating 2015 and preparing for 2016.

As we approach the 2015 FINISH line, we run straight into the START line for 2016. There should be a break between finishing this year’s holiday dash to New Years Eve before the pistol fires signifying the start of the New Year, but alas, this year’s FINISH line and next year’s START line are one and the same on life’s racetrack.

As we look back on 2015, we also look optimistically forward to what 2016 holds for us, but too often with a fragile determination. It’s difficult to keep our resolve throughout the year – keeping up a frantic pace through the whole race. One of the problems is that we tend to sprint right out of the starting blocks – a pace that is not sustainable for the entire 365-day dash. We become disheartened when we start to lose our breath, and after a few unexpected obstacles re-route the course that we had rehearsed in our minds, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Runners have a race strategy. They pace themselves and are prepared to adjust their game-plan as needed. Here are some strategies for running your race – whether it be personal, professional, or a combination of both:

  1. Celebrate what you’ve already achieved. Take time to reflect on your successes over the past year. Reflect and acknowledge what has gone well. Start the habit of a positive outlook – viewing successes and victories. Look through your calendar and list the highlights. If you have had performance reviews from your workplace, look through them and take note of your progress, your accomplishments and achievements. For those of you who tend to focus on the negative, suppress that tendency…for at least a moment – celebrate what went right! Enjoy the progress that you’ve made.
  2.  Visualize your finish. Have you ever watched athletes visualizing at the top of a ski run or the beginning of a gymnastics routine? They pre-rehearse in their minds every step of their performance. They are visualizing success, not what could go wrong. Many will also visualize themselves on the podium, seeing themselves as the victor. What does your victory podium look like? Where do you want to be 1 year from now – next New Years Eve? What specifically would you like to have achieved? What does it look like, sound like, feel like? Don’t worry – your visualization isn’t cast in stone, but it does serve as a motivation for striving forward. As Steven Covey exhorts in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Start with the end in mind”.  Know where you want to go, then you’ll have a better chance of actually getting there. For you, it could be mastering a new skill or area of knowledge. It could be obtaining certification or earning a promotion.  MAKE SURE YOUR END-GOAL IS MEASURABLE! It isn’t very effective to set vague goals like, “I want to exercise more”, or “I want to keep my desk tidier”, or “I want to be more generous”. Instead, make your goals measurable:  ”I want to be able to do 100 push-ups, 200 squats, 300 crunches and 5-minute planks in one workout, and run 25 kms per week”; or “I want to keep my desk tidy for 90-days straight”; or “I want to have donated $3000 to various charities by the end of the year”. Those are concrete and measurable. With concrete goals you can track your progress and easily determine when you have succeeded.
  3. Break your end-goal into smaller goals. Standing 365 days away from your end-goal can feel overwhelming, especially if it is an ambitious goal. It’s hard to see your progress and stay motivated when when you are only focused on a distant ambition. If you want to improve your sales numbers by 100%, merely measuring yourself against that end-goal will most likely make you feel frustrated if you only achieved 9% during the first month – “only 91% to go…arghh!” But if you break your goal into smaller chunks, in this example months, you would realize that 9% is well on the way to SURPASSING your end-goal, which would only require 8.4% per month to be reached. Take whatever your year-end goal is and determine what sub-goals would be required to achieve the end-goal? What would you need to achieve in the first month? Second month? If you stumble and miss a milestone, you can make it up by the next milestone. Don’t let yourself be syched out by the how far away the end-goal is – focus on the next interim goal!
  4. Have an accountability partner. It’s easier to maintain momentum when someone is either working with you or is helping to stay accountable and on the desired path. My wife and I exercised for a year-and-a-half together. When one didn’t feel like getting up early to start our routine, the other would push (or pull) the other out of bed. Just hearing my wife get up and start to get ready had a magical pull on me to get up and get ready even though I didn’t feel like it. You might notice that I am speaking in past tense! When our schedules changed and we started working out individually, it didn’t take long until neither of us were working out. (I can assure you that getting back into shape is on my list of goals for 2016!)  Your accountability partner isn’t necessarily someone who will roll you out of bed in the morning, but rather someone who you can meet with on a regular basis and report your progress. You want them to be encouraging, understanding, helpful and a cheerleader. When you miss an interim goal, they can help you refocus. When you make an interim goal, they celebrate with you. This could be anyone: a spouse, a friend – especially if they have similar goals, a boss, a colleague,…or a perhaps a career/leadership coach (a shameless plug).
  5. Re-evaluate at each milestone. At each milestone briefly ask yourself, “do I need to adjust my end-goal?”; “Do I need to adjust my interim goals?”  Perhaps you need to INCREASE your end-goal objective? Or maybe it’s more realistic to lower the expectations if you’ve missed a number of interim goals in a row. Each milestone is a natural place to adjust and re-focus if need be.
  6. Celebrate along the way. Don’t wait until you’ve reached the end-goal to reward yourself. As you meet your interim goals, ensure that you celebrate your successes. It will help propel you through the next interim goal. Enjoy the journey!


Kevin SchaferKevin Schafer is a Career & Leadership Coach, Principle at Cardinal Career Management Services, and an Ambassador with Career Professionals of Canada. He has 16 years experience in High Tech and 10 years experience in the Career Development field. Kevin has worked with over 500 clients and facilitates workshops for various job search topics.




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