Are you setting goals or targets?

Did you do your goal setting for 2021? To be honest, I wouldn’t blame you for not doing so yet as we’re not totally sure what the year will look like yet.

However, I do want to address an issue that I see with some people who are going through goal setting. They don’t differentiate between goals and targets.

What’s the difference between goals and targets and why does this matter?

Well, it’s not always easy to tell but, in short, goals are measurable and at least mostly under your control. So a goal might be to break 4 hours in the marathon. Targets are largely out of your control or harder to measure. So a target might be finishing in the top half of the field at a marathon (you can’t control how others run or who shows up) or to “do well” at your next race (that’s something that can’t be measured).

Both goals and targets are meaningful to have but it’s important to understand the difference between these because you need to understand and accept that you can do everything right and still fall short of a target through no fault of your own. If you do everything right and fall short of a goal, it’s probably because you set a goal that was unattainable. If you fall short of a target, it might be because a really fast person showed up (if your target was to win a race).

Personally, I don’t care what you call your targets. We often use the term goal for both goals and targets. I do this myself. I might talk about having a goal at a local race of finishing in the top 10 or some similar number. That’s not the end of the world as long as you understand that this “goal” is actually a target and don’t get upset if factors out of your control prevented you from achieving the “goal”.

So, in 2021, understand that there is a difference between goals and targets, even if you use the same term for both. You can definitely set targets. I would encourage you to do so. But understand that they are targets and that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you fell short of the target due to factors outside of your control.

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