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Setting Smart Goals in 2021

It seems a bit repetitive at this point to continue stating we are in “unprecedented times”, and yet here we are. We are finally in 2021, but many things are no different from last year. We are still dealing with a pandemic, race uncertainty, very different work situations, and an ever-present cloud of anxiety or stress. So how are we to live into this current state of events, while still striving to grow?

The prevailing wisdom compels us to set SMART goals:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R – relevant

T – time-based

How can we use this sound wisdom to reflect our uncertainty in 2021? Let’s dive in.

S – Specific

When deciding on your goals for this year, you should set specific goals that you will know when you reach them. A goal should be specific because ambiguity does not allow for you to know when you have crossed the finish line! Setting a goal that is non-specific will only leave you unsatisfied and uncertain that you are making progress. Set a goal that is time-based, mileage-based, race-completion-based, or something the like so that you will know when you have reached it.

M – Measurable

This category is quite similar to the last, and will not be difficult for endurance athletes since most of our goals are based on race times, distances, or streaks. Keep your goals objective, rather than subjective, so that you will be able to track progress. Subjective goals that are based on feelings or emotion have a place in our lives, but they must be approached and tracked differently!

A – Attainable

Now, this may be our most relevant aspect of goal-setting, yet. In 2021, we have faced a year of pandemic, disrupted work schedules, loss, broken training plans, and ever-present stress. This will absolutely impact how you should set your goals for this year. Perhaps your goals should feature a very large 2021-asterisk. Very likely your training has been disrupted and you are not in the same condition you were last year. You haven’t had the same base that you are used to, and your goals should be respectful of this. Your 2019 or 2020 PR should not be the same as your 2021 PR. Give yourself a break and plenty of grace.

R – Relevant

This category of goal setting is quite interesting at this point in our pandemic lives. I have had plenty of patients who have realized that they don’t quite care about what they used to in the same fashion. Some have determined that they have a real passion for enjoying running, daily training, rather than the endless race grind and competition. Some have decided that they are perfectly content with casual, relaxed training rather than rigorous plans and legalistic routines. Reflect on what you are passionate about and what brings your life – rather than what you feel like you should be accomplishing!

T – Time-based

If we have learned one thing through 2020, it is that you cannot count on things happening when you think they should. This should reflect your goals for 2021 as well. While we should set goals that have an end date or progress checkpoints, give yourself plenty of slack and flexibility in reaching these times. There are countless unforeseen obstacles that could slow you down!

I hope that these suggestions are helpful for your new year. We can all use a little more grace, love, and peace this year – so let’s make sure our goals reflect that!

Thanks for reading,



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