I set many goals for myself for the summer of 2018. I wanted to spend lots of time with my family, go on some fun trips, and spend as much time as possible outside enjoying Boulder’s beauty. One goal that stands out for me, is completing the Rim to Rim hike. It’s a 24-mile hike into, across and out of the Grand Canyon – in one day.
I knew this hike would push me out of my comfort zone in several ways. I’ve never been one to set physical goals for myself outside of trying to make it to a yoga class by Friday or to go running once this week. In fact, I would say one of my lifelong goals has been to avoid exerting myself too much in any given day. So this hike was a big, hairy, audacious goal for me. It was scary, daunting and exhilarating. And I knew this was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my physical and mental comfort zone.
There are five essential elements to effective goal setting summarized in the acronym SMART. Hiking the Rim to Rim was a SMART goal for me for several reasons:
1) It was Specific
Dropping down into the Grand Canyon and getting out before sunset is a very clear and specific goal.
2) It was Measurable
This goal was measurable for me in many ways. I knew the actual date I was doing the hike, and the amount of time I had to train. I knew how much ground I needed to cover, the elevation change and temperatures I was going to encounter. It was clear what was required of me to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by sunset.
3) It had inherent Accountability
18 other people were committed to doing this hike with me in mid-September. We supported and motivated each other throughout our summer training hikes. I was not going to back out of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this. I wanted to experience this incredible adventure with my close friends. And I knew that this group would support and inspire me to keep training all summer long. We were all in this together.
4) It was Resonant
Effective goals need to be aligned with our core values. This hike was strongly aligned with my values of health, physical fitness, love of the outdoors and bonding with close friends.
5) It was Thrilling
Although I like to pride myself on being a positive person, I could not have accomplished this hike on positive thinking alone. It was most assuredly out of my physical and mental comfort zone. To make progress in life, we need to push into our stretch zone. It may feel uncomfortable to be there, but that is a good sign as this is where change happens. By doing so, we expand our comfort zone and then start to push out farther from there. This goal stretched and challenged my mind and body in ways I had never experienced before. It was exciting and inspiring to reach the level of fitness and mental toughness required to do this hike.
Achieving Goals Requires Step-by-Step Progress
Big goals like this are not accomplished overnight. We started training three months in advance and gradually increased the length, time and elevation gain of our hikes – moving towards our goal, step by literal step. Our group practiced carrying all of the gear and food we would need at the Grand Canyon. We ate and drank on a specific schedule during our training hikes, simulating what we would need to do on our hike in September. We visualized and “lived” it in our minds thereby increasing our comfort level on the day of the hike.
Self-Perception Theory is a powerful motivating force in reaching our goals. Just as we admire someone we see being brave or trying something new, we admire and respect ourselves for doing the same. The more I trained and felt physically fit, the more motivated I was to push myself harder, and the more confidence I gained in my abilities. My potential need for helicopter assistance to get out of the canyon was seeming less and less likely as the summer went on.
I can not fully express how exhilarating and empowering it felt to walk up the last hundred yards of the Bright Angel trail, seeing my husband and friends above me cheering me on, and finally arriving on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As I looked back down into and across the canyon, I felt an incredible sense of relief, euphoria, and awe at the sheer beauty of this place and what I had just accomplished. The bond I felt with my fellow hikers was the cherry on top.
The Benefits of Goal Setting
The happiest people wake up to hard-to-achieve goals. It’s an integral part of a happy and well-lived life. Much of the benefit we get from goal-setting come from the journey towards our goals, not just the achievement of them. Goals add focus, structure, and purpose to our lives. They increase our self-esteem and sense of agency in our lives.
How can you set a big, bold, stretch goal for yourself? Step outside of your story? Pursue something that scares you?
I can tell you the Grand Canyon scared me before I started this hike – a lot. But now I feel much more comfortable with this magnificent, beautiful monster of a canyon. I can assure you that the best things in life are on the other side of fear.
Amy Larson is a life coach and career coach who meets with local clients in her comfortable office at 1877 Broadway in Boulder, CO and with clients from around the country via phone and Skype. Amy has worked in Investment Banking, Management Consulting and Consumer Products Marketing holds an undergraduate business degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and is a Certified Positive Psychology Coach.
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