Life on the Other Side of the Finish Line

Last weekend I completed the Bike MS Waves to Wine ride — the longest cycling event of my life — and I raised nearly $4000 for the MS Society. I feel strong and happy and proud. (I hesitate to admit that I feel proud, because my good New England upbringing taught me not to get “too big for my britches,”  but I do. Yay, me!) But what comes next, now that I have reached my goal? As I’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about effective goal setting, I haven’t addressed the crucial followup question: what’s next? When you are working toward a goal, you focus on its achievement as an endpoint. But once you cross the literal or metaphorical finish line, you wake up the next morning — and then ….. ?

Celebrate!

Whether your goal was a physical challenge like mine or a professional or creative challenge, make sure to pause and recognize your success. Give yourself credit for your efforts, recognize the milestone on your journey, and take joy in achievement. Reward yourself with something positively related to your goal (don’t celebrate a weight loss with a hot fudge sundae). For leaders, this is a great opportunity to recognize the efforts of your team. This is also a good time to take a break if you have been working especially hard. (Note that you may also feel some let-down or disappointment if the goal doesn’t quite live up to your vision. This is natural, but don’t let it negate your accomplishment.)

Be grateful.

While it is important to acknowledge your own efforts, remember that you did not do it alone. Perhaps your were blessed with a strong body, a good education, fortunate circumstances. Or perhaps you just had some really good luck. Maybe someone in your network helped you make the crucial contact that landed you your dream job. Follow the example of Jim Collins’ “Level 5 Leaders” and share the credit. I am grateful for my training partner Kate, all my donors, my family, and my healthy body.

Learn from your success.

What did you do right? Take note (maybe even literally) of what you did that helped you achieve your success. Did you follow your instincts? Set a schedule? Recruit a strong team? Perhaps you developed a process that you can repeat. Make sure to lock in the learning of what you did well and also what you might do differently next time.

Incorporate your success into your self-image.

All of us have some insecurities and many of us carry some limiting beliefs about what we are capable of. Especially if you have been through some disappointments or failures, you now have an opportunity to re-write your own narrative in a more positive way. In Run Like A Girl, lawyer-turned-author Mina Samuels details numerous stories of how women’s athletic success helped them to see themselves in a new, more powerful light. As many women found, physical accomplishments can spill over into our professional lives as well. Once a woman knows she can run a marathon, why not start her own company?

Set a new goal.

Now that you have achieved your goal, what else becomes possible? What challenge would you like to tackle? If you are like me, having a goal inspires a more energetic, conscious, and productive effort. So after you have celebrated, evaluate the big picture and your long-term aspirations, and set your sights on the next prize. Whether you want to pursue a goal in the same arena or turn to another area of your life or business, use what you have learned and choose a challenging and inspiring goal, knowing that you can do it!

On a final note, I want to address what to do if you fall short of your goal? It’s almost the same process, though perhaps a bit less bubbly. Celebrate what you did achieve and acknowledge your effort. Give yourself credit for taking a risk and setting a goal that was not a slam-dunk. Be grateful for the experience, the learning, and the relationships you made along the way. Learn from your failure and forgive your missteps. Do not let this experience reinforce a negative self-image, but rather  incorporate it into a story of continued striving, learning, and growing. (Insert your favorite Thomas Edison quotation about failure and success here). Pick yourself up, dust yourself off,  and set a new goal.

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