Last year, I ran the Dallas marathon.  I never intended to run the marathon.  I hated running.  It was boring, it made me hurt, it took a long time to go a far distance, and I wasn’t good at it.  A jock as a kid, even then I hated running for running’s sake.  And I was doing it in Dallas in August and September when the temps were in the 100s.  Miserable.

Why in the world would I run a marathon?  The marathon was actually the byproduct of my wanting to get into shape.  See, I know myself well, and so when I set out to get in shape I picked the easiest, fastest way to get results.  Who wouldn’t?  Running burned lots of calories.  But, running was hard and I knew I wouldn’t stick with it after maybe three or four weeks.  I knew, because I’d done this start-and-stop routine many times in prior years.  This time, I thought, I’m going to do something different.

I set the marathon as my goal, because like most people, I’m pretty goal-oriented.  Actually, I’m more so than the most people.  That saying about it being the climb that’s important and not summiting the peak?  That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.  I want to get to the top, enjoy the view and then head off to the next peak.  Seriously, I struggle with the process, because I’m so hell-bent on getting to the result.  Again, though, when you know yourself, you can do things to trick yourself.  These are the best kinds of life hacks. 

Shooting to do the marathon did several things that helped me reach my end goal of getting back into shape.  It gave me something to aim for.  It gave me a training regiment that I needed to follow.  I treated myself to new shoes and shorts and socks (I love gear of any kind).  It gave me something to talk about with my friends and family.  It also gave me a club to join: 26.2 is pretty darn hard to do, and there’s not a lot of us out there.  It was all a new experience for me!

These may seem like trivial things, but they actually trigger really important parts of the brain that encourage us to do something we want to do.  I created a target to ensure I was on track.  There was a beaten path in front of me, so I wasn’t breaking trail and tacking back and forth with ways to get there.  I rewarded myself after the first few long-runs by treating myself to new kicks.  I committed publically so if I backed out I would let others down or see my trust with them shrink.  I felt a sense of belonging by talking with others who had done it.  Lastly, I found people in my life that I had not connected with in a while, and because I was training for the race or had just completed it, now we were closer than before and that made me feel good.

What does this have to do with business matters?  Well, aside from the fact that it’s nearly the new year and goal-setting is on a lot of people’s minds (including mine), I wanted to highlight some of the ways you can hack your way to getting what you want with little tricks of the mind.  Setting a goal is a good start.  In fact, you can’t reach a destination if you have no clue where you are going – that’s just wandering.  Most importantly, though, you’ve got to know yourself and what you’ve got inside you that will help and hurt you reaching where you want to go.  Like me, most people need to have a clear path with strong motivators and regular milestones to keep them on track.  What kind of goal-seeker are you?

Post-script: As a point of information, after I ran the marathon I set no new long-term goals for myself and have run only a handful of times since then, even though I would love to be in better shape than I am right now.  Funny how that worked (or didn’t)…