How to Reach Your Goals This Year

Usain Bolt stands in lane 6, arms akimbo. He puts his finger to his lips to hush the crowd.

Take your mark. 

He bends down to the blue track beneath. He sets his feet on the starting block and gives the sign of the cross, kissing his finger when he lifts his face to the sky.


The eight racers lift into downward dog.


9.81 seconds later, he is celebrating in his trademark Bolt pose, a sort of modified heisman pointing to the sky

It’s easy to see how a race starts and ends, but it’s the steps between that are the key.

I love watching Usain Bolt race. We usually want something great to last, but when a great sprinter runs, we want it to be over as fast as possible. Racing is about the quickest way to get from point A to B, and modern sprinters have perfected the technique.

Racing is also frequently a metaphor for life–even writers thousands of years ago wrote about life as a race. I suppose I’ll add my voice to the chorus. Here are 4 things racing can teach us or our children about achieving goals (or at least running like Usain Bolt).

My sprint coach made the Olympic qualifying rounds.  I’d like to share lessons I learned from him in running and reaching goals.

Who are you?

Justin Gatlin or Meb Keflezighi* are two of America’s best runners, but one google image search will tell you they are very different. Can you tell which one is the sprinter and which one is the distance runner? It’s obvious: The mesomorphic Gatlin’s muscles are round and full of burst; by contrast, Meb’s ectomorphic lean muscles aide him for longer distance races.

What would happen if you put Gatlin in a marathon and Meb in a 100 meter sprint? They wouldn’t be the successes they are today–they’d finish last.

Likewise, the first step to helping yourself or your child set and achieve goals should be figuring out who your or your child is and which goals best suit you both. Part of learning that is learning your or your child’s strengths. In Strengthfinders 2.0, Tom Rath highlights a survey by Gallup. People were asked to respond to the statement  at work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Of those who “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with that statement, not one single person of the 10+ million people worldwide who have taken the survey was emotionally engaged on the job. They’re checked out. They’re not getting promoted and don’t want to climb the career ladder there anyway.

What happens when people do agree with that statement? They’re six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.

Finding a career that fits your strengths is crucial.

“You cannot be anything you want to be–but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”  – Strengthfinders

Gatlin can never be Meb, and Meb can never be Gatlin. Still, they are each one of the best runners in the world because of how they’re built.

We do our children a disservice when we tell them they can be anything they want to be. Fortunately, a child’s traits at age 3 are awfully similar to his or her personality at age 26. We are pretty much who we will be from the very beginning. Identifying those strengths in you will lead to career success and in your child can help you better nurture his or her growth. Know who they are to help them make an informed decision on the goal/career that best fits them.

(The Strengthsfinders’ quiz is a marvelous tool for discovering strengths–whether yours or your child’s. Check it out.)

Where are you looking?

Keep your head down. When the race starts, look down. Once you’re running, slowly lift your head for 3 seconds until you’re looking straight ahead. In a 100 meter sprint, you spend about a third of the time staring at your feet. In the same manner, after the goal is chosen, the next phase should be focused on what you or your child are doing and how you’re both doing it–i.e., the process.

Keep your head up. Look straight ahead. Once a strong process has been put in place, keep your eye on the finish line. Raise your head too soon and you’ll trip. Look left or right at your competition and you slow down, watching others pass you by (unless you’re, you know, Usain Bolt, who uses it to make a point: where are they?).

I often tell myself and my kids, “Don’t think about how someone else did. Just make sure you’re doing the best you can.”

Keeping an eye on the finish line makes it seem closer, more achievable. This is called “attention narrowing.”  NYU researchers found that those who narrowed their attention thought the object of their attention was 28% closer and walked 28% faster to it. Here’s the kicker: the walk also felt easier.

The Atlantic highlights the research results: “When people see goals as within reach, it may mobilize action, producing bursts of energy that result in quicker walking times and an experience of ease.” Don’t look back. The only time for looking back is after the race is over, when you rewind the tape and study it. It’s what I call The Review.

Be rigidly flexible.

One of the most unusual things I notice when watching a race in slow-motion is the sprinter’s jaw. Even though the neck is tightly straining with veins, the jaw usually hangs loose like a car trunk left open. The arms stiffly slice down at a 90 degree angle, but the hands are in a loose grip. My coach used to tell me to imagine that you’re holding a potato chip between your thumb and forefinger throughout the race–you don’t want to break the chip.

The calves are always engaged so that the heels don’t hit the ground, but the toes are kept pliable: the 100m sprint is one of tip-toes.

Notice what parts are rigid and what parts loose? The closer to your center, the more rigid you should be. Likewise, when achieving a goal, it’s important to be rigid in your principals, but flexible in your execution.

Run through the finish line.

When the finish line nears, the sprinter who slows down is the sprinter who loses.

(…again unless you’re Usain Bolt, who makes the statement Others break a world record by speeding up. I slow down.)

When a sprinter passes the finish line, they’re going into top speed for at least another 10 meters. Sometimes they keep running after they break the tape for a distance equal to the race itself.

I’ve always found that the best way to prepare was to make practice more challenging than the race itself so that the actual race feels easy. Running a 5k? Train by running 5.5ks. Most people train near or close to the goal; I believe that going just 10% more (in anything) produces exceptional results. Similarly, when you or your child achieves a goal, don’t stop. Finish strong–and keep going. Let the momentum of achieving your goal carry you forward to the next adventure.


*Funny/sad note:  Meb ended my running career–well, at least as much as a nice guy can. I ran into him at a bookstore and asked him my chances of making the team:

JT:  Hey Meb, what are my chances of making the team?

Meb:  What are your times?

JT:  49 seconds in the 400.

Meb:  2 seconds too slow.

JT:   Too bad.

Do you also have a big goal?

Imagine the possibilities!  What if you could invest in or partner with a group that works to restore the world?  Even better, what if you could create a machine generating enough income to not only improve your life but that of many others?  Think about all the lives that will be improved because of your investment!

Download my FREE 17-page Guide to Achieving Your Goals and you’ll get tips on how to clarify your goals, create a plan, map the future, and help get past times when you feel discouraged.  (You can preview it here.)  Start achieving your goals today!

Tired of waiting for “someday?”  You have a dream you’d like to come true, but going for it seems too scary.  So how do you do it?  This FREE 17-Page Guide is exclusively for subscribers. It will help you clarify your goal and develop a plan that will maximize your chance of achieving it.


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