Tackle Your Career Goals the Same Way You Train for a Marathon

Tackling your career goals can often feel like you’re training for a marathon—exhausting, difficult, and painful. Heck! You might even think to yourself, “Why am I doing this, again?” I guarantee that all ambitious professionals have been there.

thoughtfully-darcy-luoma-cover.jpg.gifIn 2013, I remember having similar thoughts when I first started my business, Darcy Luoma Coaching and Consulting. I thought to myself, You can’t do this. You don’t know anything about running a business. The route to a “dream job” can be filled with countless challenges of all kinds, amongst them our own thoughts. But just like we can train our bodies to be physically fit to run a marathon, we can also train our minds to be Thoughtfully Fit® to help us navigate our career challenges.

When we’re Thoughtfully Fit®, we’re able to effectively overcome the hurdles in front of us by practicing Endurance and building our core confidence—our ability to identify what we control and explore our choices. In my Thoughtfully Fit® framework, developed through years of research and thousands of hours coaching my clients, the practice of Endurance focuses on overcoming the obstacles that get in our way.

When you’re invested for the long haul, Endurance is key. I’ve been able to overcome many of my own challenges, including those self-sabotaging thoughts I had about starting my business. Here are a few quick lessons I’ve learned that might help you with your career goals.

On Your Mark…Get Set…Go to Your Checkpoints

It’s tempting to hit the ground running, but you could sabotage the race if you don’t know the course or its checkpoints. Just like mapping out the path of a marathon, I recommend establishing your career goals and identifying specific checkpoints—or milestones—on the way to reaching them.

Take a moment to jot down your current opportunities, immediate network, and strengths. Heightening your awareness this way will help you to identify which choices will move you closer to your goals. As you look over the list, ask yourself some thoughtful questions and jot those answers down as well:

  • What does success look like for me?
  • What’s important to me?
  • How do I want to spend my time each week?
  • What do I want my professional life to look like in five years?
  • What skills/qualifications/certifications do I currently have?
  • What skills/qualifications/certifications am I interested in obtaining?

You may feel impatient with this process—but be patient! Just like you can’t go from being a couch potato to running a marathon overnight, it takes time and intention to tackle your career goals.

Focus on what you control today and what you choose to do next. When you take the time to gain greater awareness of your current position (starting line) and future goals (finish line!), you’ll have a better idea of how to train in order to achieve the milestones along the way.

Staying motivated and keeping up with your personal training plan, however, is a different story.

Find Your Pace Team

As someone who has trained for six marathons, I can attest to the fact that there will be days when the force of gravity is too great and all you want to do is hit the snooze button on your goals, stay in bed, and forget about training altogether. The same can happen when we’re pursuing our career goals. We can lose sight of our intentions and start feeling unmotivated. It’s on those days when having a pace team comes in handy!

Your pace team is a group of people who have similar goals, can provide career support, and can supply accountability. Having reliable accountability partners is incredibly valuable. Not only can they make sure you stay motivated and “on pace” to reach your checkpoints and achieve your goals, but they can also provide diverse perspectives and advice to improve your strategies.

Your pace team can include fellow colleagues, career mentors, and coaches. Bottomline, it should consist of people who want to see you succeed and are there to make sure you keep moving forward—especially when you feel like binge watching Netflix instead of lacing up your shoes. (Okay, maybe just one more episode.)

When the Pain Starts to Hit

At some point, whether it’s during your training or in the middle of the big race, there will be a point when you’re going to start feeling the pain and having self-sabotaging thoughts. You may even want to quit. We all have those thoughts. Thoughts that have us thinking I can’t do this anymore, I’m terrible at this, or Why can’t I be as good as Riley? (I mean…we can’t all be as good as Riley.)

But when we take a minute to create awareness around those thoughts, we can override them and turn our pain into gain.

I can’t do this anymore—turns into—I’ve been at this a while. I think I’ll take a break.

I’m terrible at this—turns into—I need more practice in this area.

Why can’t I be as good as Riley—turns into—I wonder if Riley would like to join my wolf pack.

Most of us have these initial negative thoughts pop up. Think of them as a sign that you’re working hard for growth (and a sign that you’re human!). It’s when sabotaging thoughts lead to sabotaging actions, that they can severely hinder performance and leave us feeling sore. When we engage our core, we’re able to recognize our thoughts and make sure they serve us instead of sabotage us—before we act on them.

darcy-luoma-2Like I said, you may have the urge to hit the ground running and simply dig into the day-to-day grind. But identifying your starting point and your ideal finish line, as well defining clear checkpoints along the way, will help you tremendously.

When you take a moment to engage your core with each challenge that comes your way, you start tackling those challenges with Endurance and take meaningful action towards achieving your goals.

Sure, you may leave feeling a bit sore the first few times you try to tackle your challenges thoughtfully, but just like marathoners who have been at the sport for years know, with continual practice, each proceeding challenge will feel easier to overcome.

So, lace up those running shoes and get training. You have milestones to meet and a finish line to cross!



Darcy Luoma

Darcy Luoma

Darcy Luoma, author of Thoughtfully Fit: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success, is a Master Certified Coach, dynamic facilitator, and inspiring motivational speaker. She has worked as director for a U.S. Senator, deputy transition director for a governor, and on the national advance team for two U.S. presidential campaigns. As the owner and CEO of Darcy Luoma Coaching & Consulting, she’s worked in 48 industries with more than five hundred organizations to create high-performing people and teams. The media has named Darcy the region’s favorite executive-and-life coach four times. Darcy balances her thriving business with raising her two energetic teenage daughters, adventure travel, and competing in triathlons.

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