Do you have a goal?

Do you have a dream?

A dream of representing Singapore on the international stage one day… of standing on the winners’ podium with your medal… of looking like that model in the magazine… of toeing the starting line in the Boston Marathon?

Can your dream come true?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But turning any dream into a reality starts with taking the first step.. and walking towards it. Turn it into a goal and you might get there. Keep it a dream, and you will never know what you are capable of.

How do you go from ‘dream’ to goal? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Is the goal realistic?

Suppose you you want to represent Singapore in the skiing at the next Winter Olympics for skiing, but you have never gone skiing in your life, and you’re already in your 30s. Not impossible…. but let’s face it, highly unlikely.

The question I would ask is – why this goal? What is it that you like about the idea of skiing for Singapore, and can you find the same satisfaction elsewhere? Can you modify your goal?

Is your goal specific?

A goal that is too vague does not give you any road map for getting there.

Take triathlons, for example. Is it enough to say, “I want to finish a triathlon”? There are many distances and destinations for triathlons, and each one presents different challenges. Finishing a sprint distance triathlon in Singapore’s East Coast Parkway is very different from finishing an ironman-distance triathlon in Langkawi. The training requirements and milestones for each event are vastly different.

Without identifying the specific triathlon event you would like to take part in, how can you be sure that you are preparing yourself adequately, and maximising your chances of achieving your goal?

Is your goal measurable?

How will you know when you have achieved it?

This seems like a useless comment, but many people don’t give enough thought to this. How often have you heard someone say she wants to lose weight, but when the needle on the scale starts moving down, she says she needs to lose some more? When will she know that her goal has been reached?

By formulating your goal in clearly measurable terms, you will know how far you have come, and how much more you need to do. In fact, I would encourage you to set benchmarks/milestones for tracking your progress. The bigger your goal, the more helpful this can be. For instance, if your aim is to lose 20kg, you might set a milestone at every 5kg, and celebrate each 5kg loss.

Obviously, it would be a good idea to celebrate with something other than food!

Is this goal relevant to your larger aims?

So you’ve decided that you want to learn how to ski.

But living in tropical Singapore means that you have to travel overseas to get any time on the ski slopes. Does this makes sense in the context of your larger aims and priorities?

If you have decided to ski as a form of exercise to get healthier, perhaps you should re-consider. If fitness is your aim, then an activity which you can only do on vacation does not make sense. On the other hand, if you’re seeking to build new pathways in your brain by doing something totally out of the ordinary, then skiing could be a good idea!

Do you have a timeframe for it?

Over the course of our lives, we have many dreams and goals.

For instance, I would like to write a book someday. It is something that I have been talking about since I was in my 20s. Yet, it is very unlikely to happen since I do not have any timeframe for it. If I set a timeframe, I would also know when to abandon the idea.

Goals are not set in stone, and there maybe reasons to stop pursuing a particular goal, whether because it needs to be changed, or it has simply outlived it’s purpose in your life.

Wow – so much work just to formulate your goals! But if you have made the effort to think it through and plan for it, you will be more committed to it; and more likely to see your ‘dream’ become a reality.

Here’s a sample of a goal that I have been thinking about:

I want to finish the Three Gorges Marathon that will be held in Taiwan in Nov 2015. I have completed 3 full marathons and 2 ironman triathlons in the past, am relatively injury-free and have the time and energy to train 3 times a week (1-2 hours on weekdays, and 2-3 hours on a weekend).

Although this is a tough marathon with challenging elevation, I am prepared to walk parts of it and hope to finish it within 6 hours. I have a marathon best of 4:29 hours.

Here, I have –

1. a realistic goal – I have completed marathons, though not on such a steep incline. This marathon will be tougher, but seems possible and I am prepared to take an addition 2 hours to complete the course.

2. a clear timeframe – I have 11 months to the event, which is a reasonable time to train for a marathon (even for a first-timer), given that I am relatively injury-free and able to commit to 3 training sessions per week.

3. a specific goal – I have identified the event that I wish to participate in. I know that the route is mountainous and this will have an impact on how I design my training program, especially with given that there are not many hills and mountains here that I can train in.

4. a goal that is relevant – I would like to define myself as a triathlete. Running a marathon (which is one of the 3 disciplines in a triathlon) in such challenging terrain will make me a stronger triathlete.

5. measurable targets – Like all marathons, the event has a fixed distance of 42km. Knowing that this is the distance I need to complete, I can work out what/how much training I will need to at least get me to the finish line without injury.

In the words of Harvey McKay, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline”. Now you have the tools, which of your ‘dreams’ will you be turning into goals?