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Trainer’s Diary: The Main Prize


Byron KaliesGoal setting is the easy part, staying focussed enough to achieve those goals is another thing altogether, says Byron Kalies.

It’s that time into the New Year when all those resolutions are in great danger of failing (if they haven’t already).

You remember those vows you made on 1 January: “This year I’m going to finish that CIPD / stop smoking / run more consultancy events / make a difference…”

So why do so many resolutions fail? I guess it’s for the same reason as many action plans fail- one of the main causes is that people forget that they are human.

The process goes something like this: it’s the end of a course and people have their action plans, they are highly-motivated, excited and vow “This time I’ll do it.” They set targets. As a trainer you do your work well – the goals are inspiring and the final time frame realistic. Most people are OK as far as here.

The problems seem to come in the next part. The next part of the planning traditionally breaks that target into easy to manage chunks. If we take a losing weight scenario it should be clearer;
you’ve set yourself a target of three months to lose three stones, which means, one stone per month or 4 lb per week. People take this as gospel. It’s as if this target has been passed down from above and is etched in stone. Typically you know what happens – week one you lose 6lb, week two another 3lb, week three nothing, week four nothing, week five you give up.

Most people know this is likely to happen yet persist in carrying out this doomed approach. There seems to be a lot of magic thinking going on somewhere. I would advocate taking a more realistic approach.

I would see this in terms of a journey. The start of the journey is you in a sailing boat. Your target, somewhere out there in the distance, is the lighthouse you’re aiming for. You’ve a good idea of where your lighthouse is – the ‘giving up smoking’, ‘losing weight’, ‘running a marathon’. What you haven’t quite worked out is exactly how you’ll get there. That’s OK. It’s like any sea journey by boat you don’t know exactly how you’ll get there at the beginning. There are a lot of unknowns out there – rocks, waves, tides, weather, pirates, sharks (these can equate to all sorts of difficulties you need to overcome in your particular challenge).

If you know anything at all about sailing you’ll know that the chances of sailing in a straight line from ‘home’ to your ‘lighthouse’ is next to none. All the unknowns will get in your way. The way most sailing boats sail is by ‘tacking’, zigzagging into the wind, using the wind to gain momentum.

What mariners do is to look at the end of the journey, look at the immediate elements – tide, rocks, wind, rain – and then plan the first few steps. That is all you can do. If you can plan the first few weeks that will be extremely useful. It may be that you’ve something coming up that will mean postponing your training for a week. If so then build that in to the target. Set the targets for the first few days / weeks and then stop and review. Look at where you are now. Look at where your ‘lighthouse’ is now and plan the next steps.

What frequently happens is people who feel they have to stick to some initial plan and sail miles off target in the wrong direction. Or people failing to meet one mini-target along the way and give up. It’s OK. You’re a human, not a robot. If you miss a target adjust for it next week. Plan the next step realistically. It could be that you’ve a good week in front of you where you can make better progress than you thought you would. Good – plan it. Above all, stay realistic and don’t give yourself a hard time.

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Claire Savage

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