Goals related to the process of becoming better at something work especially well for beginners.

She’s been honoured by the Governor General. She’s been named an Academic All Canadian by CIS. She’s won a Canadian Championship title, placed fourth at the Francophone Games, fifth at Summer Universiade, and represented Canada at the IAAF World Championships in the 400-metres. 

Obviously, University of Toronto student and star athlete Alicia Brown can teach most of us a thing or two about athletics. 

But she can also teach us surprising truths about discipline and sacrifice and goals. 

Setting the Right Kinds of Goals

Most people will tell you that setting goals is the single best way to progress in life. 

They’re right. And they’re wrong.

It’s true that goals give you focus and help you overcome difficulties. But most of us tend to set unrealistic goals related only to the end of a process. And in doing so, we increase the chances of getting discouraged and eventually giving up. 

The solution lies in setting the right kinds of goals—ones that relate to the process of getting where you want to be. 

This is especially true when you’re a beginner, says Alicia. 

“If this is a new commitment to you, I don’t think the best way to go about it is to say, I’m going to lose 50 pounds and get a six-pack in six months’ time. Because at that point, you may not understand what it takes to get to that place. So if you set a smart goal like going to the gym three times a week and doing at least 20 minutes of cardio every time I go, that’s a good start. Once you’ve achieved that goal, once you’ve successfully being going to the gym for a couple of months, you can up it—you can further define your goal. You could say, for example, ‘now I want to do ten pull-ups consecutively.’ The important thing is that your first goal must be a routine by now. Then you set bigger and bigger goals, to the point where getting a six pack is attainable.”

Alicia’s tip doesn’t just apply to athletics. For example, if you want to get A’s all across, concentrate on sticking to a daily study period of two hours every night.

Even if you’re not a student or an athlete, a focus on the process of getting where you want to be, rather than on the end goal will no doubt help you excel at whatever you set your mind to.