Goal Setting and My Happiness Project, Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the age old question, “Where do I want to be in 5 years, personally & professionally?”  Like I said before, impending fatherhood has a tendency to make you think about all sorts of stuff that is typically “easy” to avoid.  That, in combination with some changes likely in my professional world, is leading me to dig a bit deeper in this area.  Some of my thinking on this subject has also been influenced by a book I recently completed titled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It’s a tedious read, but its a story of her 1-year project to identify and document those things that bring her happiness, joy, satisfaction and engagement in life and also to identify those things that bring anger, guilt, boredom and remorse.  Out of this exercise comes a set, again documented, of resolutions to pursue and principles that guide her actions broken into monthly objectives over a 1-year period.  Gretchen is quick to point out that you don’t have to be unhappy to embark on a Happiness Project, rather its an explicit and written attempt to identify and focus on those things that already bring happiness in your life and to minimize those things that don’t.  I’m at a great place in life right now with a new and wonderful wife, a baby boy on the way, but this seems like an interesting experiment and a way to get committed to some life planning.  In fact, by sharing my plans to do it here, I’m already committed!

I posted recently about training for a difficult cycling event in May that is requiring a disciplined, daily approach to executing against a documented plan in order to successfully achieve the goal.  For this type of fitness or event training, I’m typically very diligent, disciplined and ultimately successful.  Interestingly, I don’t always apply this same goal-oriented approach to other things in life, both personally and professionally.  But is it any different?  Having a goal or objective, no matter what its nature or time frame would likely benefit from this type of planning, right?  When I tell people that I’ve completed an Ironman Triathlon, they often say “I could never do that” and I always respond that ANYONE can do it, not tomorrow or the next day, but six months or a year from now with a detailed roadmap that starts easy, yes you can.

So this post is a setup to several more  in this series –

1. My process for identifying 5-year personal goals

2. My development of a professional plan to achieve 5-year career objectives

3. My Happiness Project

As Yin to my Yang, Renee reminded me after reading a previous post that life shouldn’t only be about planning for the future,  but also living in the moment and enjoying life as it comes.  Yes, brilliant, I agree!  So I’ll commit to “Living in the Moment” being one of my Happiness Project resolutions.

Bear with me, there’s work to do here!

It’s About the Journey

Ever since our cycling trip to France last year (600 miles and 60,000 feet of elevation gain in 9 days), I’ve missed the commitment, preparation and sense of personal accomplishment that training for a strenuous physical event brings.  To prepare for France, I trained for about 6 months, riding 4-5 days per week on a pretty strict schedule of mileage & elevation gain.  As other priorities have now taken over, I’ve not spent much time on my bike, maybe one decent ride per week since we returned from the Tour de France last July.  In fact my fitness in general has taken a back seat.

Recognizing this “training” void in my life for the past 8 months, Renee for my birthday offered to drive the support vehicle so I could ride 2 stages of the upcoming Amgen Tour of California.  This is an 8-stage, pro-cycling tour event that is gaining in popularity and now competes directly with the major European tours, taking place May 15-22 along the California coast.  Amateurs have the ability to ride stages in the morning before the riders begin.

I’ll be riding Stages 6 & 7 of the Tour, the first being a relatively easy time trial through the Santa Ynez wine country outside of Santa Barbara.  The second is the defining stage of the race – Claremont to Mt. Baldy, twice!  It will be a 75 mile stage with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain during the day.  If I had to do it tomorrow, I wouldn’t make it.  That’s what makes the training journey so important and rewarding – there’s no way the objective could be achieved tomorrow, but with a detailed plan, broken into manageable and achievable components, success is all but guaranteed.

So I have roughly 6 weeks to get my cycling legs and have laid out DAILY training objectives between now and May 20.  I know precisely what I have to do tomorrow to prepare, and the next day, such that on May 20 the objective will be achieved.

Many endurance athletes would agree that the training journey, the hours, the pain, the discipline are what makes the actual race or event special.  It’s an adrenaline payoff for a lot of hard work, but many would also agree that training itself is enjoyable, even addictive.  We don’t do the training solely for the event, we do the training because it is rewarding all by itself.  The event or goal is simply what helps us stay on track, an additional motivator.

Why not apply these principles to most things in our lives – professional and personal?  I can see lot’s of opportunities in my own life to be better about setting stretch or aspirational personal goals instead of living life day to day.  Or perhaps being more diligent about my career objectives 2, 3 or 5 years from now to ensure I’m on my DAILY path to get there.

What objectives have you been putting off defining?  Maybe, just maybe the journey to reach them will be as rewarding as reaching the objective itself.

A Great Ride!

I finally had a chance to get out on my bike today after a 2-week hiatus, which is a long time for me.  The combination of work travel and illness has put a real damper on my fitness routine.  My commitment to cycling, running and generally staying in shape is important to me and its taken a back seat lately.  I’m an avid cyclist, it is by far my favorite hobby.  Last year I cycled in France during the Tour de France, an amazing experience I will never forget.  It was a gorgeous day today, 70 degrees and not a cloud to be found.

I did one of my favorite routes today – roughly 50 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain over several canyon climbs in the Santa Monica mountain range.  PCH, Topanga, Fernwood, Stunt, Piuma, Saddle Peak.  Being on my bike, alone and suffering, is where I have the largest blocks of time to think.  About work, life, whatever is occupying my energy at the time.  I really enjoy riding alone for this reason.

Today I took a different approach.  I’ve been pretty stressed and preoccupied lately so today I focused my energy on NOT thinking about all the things going on in life.  Rather, I focused on enjoying being outside, my rhythmic breathing, the scenery, getting to the top of the next climb – all the things I’ve been unable to think about over the past few weeks.

It was truly a breath of fresh air.

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