Have you ever ran a marathon?

How would you approach such an enormous task? I’ve personally never run a marathon, but I assume it would go something like this:

You would start researching training programs and diets that benefit long-distance running. You might even plan out a schedule for building up to a 26.2-mile run over several months with a race date as the final milestone.

You would wake up on the first day with seemingly unlimited energy and hit the road. The passionate energy that comes with a new goal is intoxicating.

Day after day, week and week, month after month you would build your strength and stamina. There would be hardships, shin splints, sore feet, and rainy days, but you would press on because you’re training for something so big you wouldn’t dare give it less than 110%.

I think we can all agree that the effort and work that a marathon takes is indisputable, whether we’ve run one or not. You would not sign up for a marathon, show up on race day, and start sprinting towards the end as fast as you could with no training under your belt, right?

That would be crazy!

So, why do so many of us do this very thing with our other goals in life? Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, financial independence, a corner office, a hefty paycheck, whatever it is, we want the shortcut, the quick route to the top.

We set our sights on what we want, take off in a full sprint, and we expect that to work, but success is a marathon, not a sprint. Achieving significant and meaningful things takes hard work over an extended period of time.

My biggest issue with New Year’s Resolutions is that they set most people up for failure by framing self-improvement as a short sprint. Men and women all around the world take off on January 1st in a full sprint towards some Big Hairy Audacious Goal that they’ve been procrastinating for the better part of the previous year.

Related: How to Use the Domino Effect for a Momentum Driven New Year

Instead, we all need to realize that great things take time, dedication, and consistency. I talk about this a lot on Daily New Year’s, but if you have a strong enough ‘why,’ you can do anything. So, before you set out to tackle a massive goal, like lifting 1,250 pounds, do these three things:

1. Write down your goal and WHY you want to do it.

Don’t list that you want to lose 45 pounds because that’s what you weighed ten years ago. Write down something like “I want to lose 45 pounds so that I can have more stamina to play with my kids after work.”

Don’t write that you want to make more money. Write something like “I want to become financially independent so that I can retire with peace of mind for myself and my family.” See the difference? Put some meaning into it.

2. Plan it out 30, 60, or even 90 days into the future.

I want you to be positive, yet realistic about your planning.

Planning will help you realize that there’s no quick fix or shortcut and it will help keep you on track. What are the next action steps you can take towards achieving this goal? Is it finding a weight loss plan or accountability partner? Is it start a 401k or open a savings account?

The key is to figure out your plan and your very next step. I recommend using a goal planner. Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner is the best I’ve seen. Give it a try.

3. Take it day by day.

Just like training for a marathon, there will be ups and downs. Some days you will feel like quitting, and other days you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. Either way, refer back to why you started and remember that the hard work is worth the outcome.

Related: 5 Powerful Tips for Overcoming Obstacles & Disappointment

It’s true: success is a marathon, not a sprint, but anyone can set and achieve big goals if they stay consistent over time.

All you have to do is follow my three steps above and place your ‘why’ and your schedule somewhere you can see it every single day. Stay focused on what you want and build slowly towards your success. It may seem like it takes forever, but as the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.

If you can learn to treat your goals like a marathon, you’re going to do big things in life; I’d bet on it!

If you’re new to goal setting, check out these related articles:

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

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