Setbacks and Roadblocks: When Things You Can’t Control Derail Goals

“Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be.”  -Marsha Petrie Sue (Author, public speaker, and motivational coach)

The above quote appeared in my day planner today and the timing could not be more apropos.  The Chef and I are both experiencing some setbacks and roadblocks albeit in very different contexts.  These setbacks got me thinking that maybe a setback or a roadblock isn’t just an end to one goal but rather that it can be the beginning of a new (and perhaps even better) goal.  It may sound cliche, but life is about the journey and not the destination and sometimes the best discoveries are made when you have to make a detour or take an unfamiliar path.

Every year on my birthday I set goals for myself for the coming year.  In 2015 I’m going to be reaching the big 3-0 milestone and so I set some fairly ambitious, though certainly not unattainable goals.  I try to make goals in a variety of arenas (health/fitness, career, personal, financial, etc.).  As part of my fitness goals I am determined to run my first half marathon.  I initially set out to run a half marathon in the fall of 2014. I completed almost all of the training but just a few short weeks before the event I was presented with an incredible opportunity at work that would mean I’d have to abandon my hopes of completing that particular half marathon.  The career development meant that I’d be traveling and my travel would take me far, far away from the half marathon starting line.  Although it was hard to come so close to the finish line only to have to give up, the career opportunity was perhaps a once in a lifetime (or certainly the beginning of more advances).  And there will be plenty of half marathons that I can sign up and train for in the future.  The decision was an easy one. No regrets!

2014 ended and 2015 began.  At the beginning of the New Year I again sat down to refocus and recommit to my goals.  I was even more determined to complete a half marathon. I signed up for a half marathon scheduled at the end of March and started formulating my training plan. I plugged along with my training runs in January and February but was forced to take a little hiatus from running in mid-February due to miserable weather and an even more miserable sinus infection.

Worry set in. How would I be able to still complete the half marathon when I’d missed two weekends of long runs? Would I be able to get enough distance in and be capable of finishing the full race? When the sinus infection finally appeared to be dissipating, I took a deep breath and decided that the only thing I could do was set out on a run and see how it went.  I promised myself that even though my training called for 6 or 7 miles that I would just go out for 3 or 4 miles and see how I was feeling.  I pulled on some fleece-lined running tights and a long sleeve shirt, laced up my sneakers, and headed out the door.  And something amazing happened: I hit my stride and the planned 3-4 mile run turned into a 6.75 mile run. I felt strong and (although there were more training runs to go) ready for the half marathon.

But then I got home, stretched, and took a bath.  And after a few hours my foot started throbbing and I was experiencing a sharp pain whenever I’d attempt to walk around the house.  I hobbled around the city on Sunday. I hobbled to and from work on Monday. And today, I hobbled some more. I googled my symptoms to no avail.  And with some growing concern I finally gave up and called a podiatrist.  Due to a cancellation, the podiatrist was able to see me today. The diagnosis: peroneal tendonitis. The prognosis: no more running for a few weeks followed by a gradual build up.  It appears that once again my goal of completing a half marathon will have to be on hold.

Although I’m disappointed, I’m determined not to let this setback derail my overall fitness goals.  I’m determined to find a new half marathon to train for.  And I’m looking forward to having the extra time to focus towards things like swimming and biking (I’m also planning on my first triathlon this year) and yoga.

The Chef also recently encountered a roadblock.  A few months ago he had accepted a new position as an executive chef at a local restaurant. He had dreams and goals and plans to make a name for himself and to make the restaurant successful.  A few months in, however, it became apparent that the owners of the restaurant had little desire to make necessary changes to the operations in order to attract more customers and to make the restaurant more profitable.  The Chef became aware of some serious mismanagement.  I won’t go into great detail, but if you’ve seen the movie Chef and watched tv shows like Kitchen Nightmares or Bar Rescue then you might have an idea of the situation.  It became apparent to the Chef that he was not going to be able to reach his goals in this particular position and he made a painful decision to put in notice.

Much like I was disappointed and initially felt like I was giving up on the half marathon, the Chef grappled with feeling like a quitter.  But after wallowing in disappointment for a day, the Chef and I began to discuss the other options available to him and to reformulate his goals.  Maybe this is just what needed to happen in order to accelerate the Chef’s progress toward his goal of starting his own business.

If there is anything that these recent setbacks (and previous setbacks) have taught me about goals, its that goals are about more than just the end result. Goals are about progress. Goals are important and they can be useful tools for helping us shape our lives and achieve our dreams.  But while we work towards our goals, we also need to be flexible and resilient.  We need to be able to alter our goals whenever there is a setback – to be able to take a detour around the roadblock.  And to borrow from the quote above, we shouldn’t focus on what might have been but instead should focus on what can be.


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