In 2018, I made a big deal out of my goal to run a hundred mile ultramarathon in less than 24 hours. I told everyone who stopped long enough to hear: runners, friends, family, grocery store clerks, hairdressers, baristas, toddlers, other people’s pets, you name it. Would making my sub-24 loud, proud, and public hold me accountable? I seriously didn’t know.
Secret #1: Public accountability
On the flip side, there’s a TEDx talk about this (what isn’t there a TED talk about, these days…). In it, Derek Sivers (one of my favorite thinking seekers on the planet) says declaring your intent to achieve a goal often backfires because just by saying it out loud you get approval and an emotional reward. By getting your emotional reward FIRST, it is possible that you could be completely derailed from actually achieving your goal. Yikes. Derek suggests, in fact, that you might consider keeping your goal to yourself. I think both theories are right: it just depends on YOUR personality. Maybe it even depends on the goal itself.
Fighters vs The Rest Of Us
There are some folks who really truly will FIGHT and achieve that which people said they could not. Many movie plots are based on this, and it makes for a great rallying storyline. They told her no way could she be a skateboard hero, and look how she showed everyone!!! But honestly, I think there are also many of us (myself included) who take criticism to heart, shrinking under naysayers. We tend to thrive in a supportive and encouraging environment, with a literal or metaphorical crowd cheering us in all the way to the finish line.
I don’t often declare goals publicly, so this was an experiment. In a way it was casting the net wide, allowing other people to partake in either my success or failure along with me. After all, if I told no one of my goal, no one would know if I failed. My tail would be firmly planted between my legs and I’d mope around alone. Failing in public actually has a lot of tangible benefits. Humans are natural caretakers; when we see a wounded creature we want to help or at least murmur our sympathies. We are a sucker for vulnerability, and that’s not a bad trait to have.
In this case and despite Derek’s theory, I think being public worked. But only because of reason #2:
Secret #2: Luck Favors The Prepared
As a matter of fact, this goal of sub-24 for the Stagecoach 100, in September of 2018, was not a far-fetched goal to proclaim. I had more than a year of consistent mileage and almost no injuries to speak of. I was lean (almost too much, but that’s another topic) and at my “fighting” shape.
In the end, it DID work. Luck gave be good weather and no bodily mishaps during the event. At the end, I not only got my sub-24 but I finished 1st Masters woman (over 40) and 6th overall in the race. I felt sustainably good almost the whole way (relatively speaking for a 100 mile event), and was able to chat with and maybe even help pull along a few people. (And my fitness continued to pull me along to additional racing feats for months to come…)