by Paula on May 12, 2013

Riding my bike for FUN!There’s much written about goal-setting. The importance of having goals, plans, milestones. Making them challenging yet achievable. Enjoying the journey, not just the destination. In all areas of our life we have goals that we set or that are set for us. We are cogs in the goals of others. We encourage people, we support people, we welcome this encouragement and support ourselves. But along the way some of us achieve our goals and some of us don’t. It’s here the mindset and learning becomes most critical.

Wanting that goal

I am a strong believer in having things to work towards and in my work as a freelance manager and trainer, I regularly help people set goals, or support them to break down the steps required to achieve the ones they’ve set themselves. However difficult the goal is, the big difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t are how much they really wanted it.

A good friend of mine regularly used to beat herself up for not finishing college courses, not continuing with exercise classes, not achieving promotions and she thought she was hopeless and a failure. But when we looked together at her goals, they were all things she thought she should do. All things other people had convinced her were right for her, and deep down the hunger that drives you on when things are really tough, just wasn’t there. Nowadays she lives a much simpler life. She has goals but they are on her terms. She succeeds in what she does and she’s happy – the most important outcome of all.

The purpose of this blog is not to demonstrate how to achieve goals, but to tell you about me. A goal I set myself that I am walking away from, and maybe by writing it I am helping you and also helping me.


Just over a month ago, I woke on Easter Monday, shared with two friends that I dreamed about being in a triathlon and within 2 hours they had me signed up to one in Portishead in June. My husband was quite surprised given the fact that while I regularly attend circuit training and love it, I had professed a hatred of running and I only go near the pool to splash about in the shallow and ensure our son doesn’t drown.

Why not though, I thought. My friends told me “You can do it! Believe in yourself!” and so I tried. To cut a long story short (or not if you have been following my pains on Twitter – sorry!) I have spent the last month cycling, running, walking, getting cross, seeing improvement, realising I can’t really swim, taking lessons, swallowing water, hurting various parts of my body and panicking quite a lot.

My personal goals for doing this were:-

  • To get fitter & healthier.
  • To push myself way outside of my comfort zone and do something I didn’t think I could do without beating myself up along the way.
  • To enjoy it & have it as a great antidote to the general stresses of family, business, life.


Today was a practice swim day. 8.30am start in the Portishead outdoor pool, start as if it were the race to show us how it would be on the day and to get an idea of our times. This was going to be the day that showed me I actually could do this rather than people just telling me I could.

I didn’t sleep the night before worrying about it. I had an upset stomach that morning with fear. I had to sit on the poolside waiting my turn for half an hour and was violently shivering with cold all this time. I got in the pool, surrounded by different coloured swim hats and with a head full of instructions and GO! Off I went. One length of front crawl – forgetting EVERYTHING I’d been taught and feeling panicky and struggling to breathe. I set off for the second length and nearly at the end I was overwhelmed with a desire to stop. So I did. And then I got out. And then I cried – a lot.

I was the only one who got out before finishing that day. Everyone else did brilliantly or struggled on. Except me.

I’m going to give myself a week before I confirm my decision but I can pretty confidently say that I’m not going to achieve that goal and I’m going to drop out.

Comfort Zone

3 years ago when I started my own business I had never ever stood up in front of a crowd and spoken. I would be nervous if I was in a room when we had to go round and introduce ourselves! 3 years on I confidently deliver training courses to a room full of people without fear and I love it! Did I go from nothing to that? No – I firstly did a 5 minute presentation, then a 10 minute one, then a few stints on the local radio, then an hour course, then a half day course. I built it up – pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, making it my new comfort zone then stretching it again.

The fact is, to go from not running or swimming to a triathlon in two months is achievable! You know, physically I am coming along really well and probably I could do it! But, the pressure of a race environment, the numbers of people and the stop watch are a big thing to face even with confidence in your physical ability. But add the doubt and to be honest it was all too much.

So what now? Well…

  • I am not giving up.
  • I am setting myself smaller goals. To enter some little competitions (maybe 5k runs) and get used to a race environment with something I can do.
  • I am fitter and healthier and it’s improving all the time.
  • Doing it was not making me happy – being happy is VITAL!

And the biggest achievement that happened today is the recognition of what I said out loud as I got out of that pool.

Not the negative, self-critical “I can’t do this” but the confident, self-aware “I don’t want to do this”That – for me – is a goal in itself.


Sam May 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

To dream of being in a triathlon so that you could get fitter and healthier, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and have an anecdote – looks like you achieved your goal without needing to complete the triathlon! Well done you for being flexible with your goal – sounds like a great reason to celebrate and be proud! :)

Tracey Williams May 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

NOTHING is worth that much unhappiness and well done you for removing it!

“…give me strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Up for a ride or run when you feel like it!

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:17 am

Thanks Tracey. I am still loving the cycling and running and would LOVE to get together for one or both of those soon. xx

Jennifer Mackerras May 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

I think these are the two things we all most need to learn, and that every child should get to experience: knowing how to set goals, and knowing how to walk away. And I think we prioritise the first over the second.
When I was younger, I longed to play flute. My parents made it happen for me – they found a flute, found a teacher, and I had lessons. And I did enjoy it, but I knew after a year or two that I wasn’t very good, and was never going to be very good, and that what I really wanted to do was have
A go at singing. But not quitting was a very high value in my home and school, so I kept playing flute for far longer than I ought.
I kept at my postgrad degree and finished it, even though I came to know it was the wrong thing for me. I wasn’t ‘a quitter’, so I kept going, at the expense of my health. But it taught me a major lesson.
Giving yourself permission to quit is as essential as giving yourself permission to try something new and risky. In fact, they go together. I recently pushed way outside my comfort zone by running the Bristol 10k. I would never have done it if I had made a rule for myself that I couldn’t quit if the goal turned out to be too advanced for me. To take risks, one has to give oneself permission to experiment and play, and that means giving permission for messing up, getting things wrong, and quitting if it turns out to be a wrong path.
Paula, well done for experimenting, and thank you for this lovely reminder of how important it is to be kind to oneself.

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

Thanks for your lovely comments Jen and for sharing your story. It is drummed into us that quitting is bad and certainly if we all gave up things and didn’t see them through then nothing would be accomplished. I guess that’s why it’s so hard to stand up and say “Actually this is not for me” and walk away. Like you say though – you never know what is for you unless you experiment and try things, and through doing that you can find some fantastic things that really are for you and it’s on those that our time is best spent. Well done on your 10k! I may join you next year :-) xx

Steve May 13, 2013 at 1:30 am

Well done. You deserve a hug. For being you.

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hugs welcomed and accepted :-) And thanks. x

Zoe walker May 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

This blog entry is why you are my friend and why I admire you so much, BBQ still on may be with a short walk before?

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

I feel humbled by that lovely remark. It’s because of the support of my friends that I feel able to push myself outside of my comfort zone and for that, thank you. xx Can’t wait until BBQ and any attached activities :-) x

Dave Cooper May 12, 2013 at 8:31 pm

“Failure isn’t falling down, it’s staying down.”

As Georgina says, I love the honesty of what you’ve said here. We’ve all felt like this sometimes – I know I’ve agreed to do things in the past and have struggled with making them happen, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I pulled it off, sometimes I didn’t; but my criteria for pressing on would be much the same as yours: “Is this making me happy? Am I getting something out of it other than a world of stress?” At the end of the day, personal fulfilment is what it’s all about; that’s not a selfish view, IMO, more a realistic one. You can build skyscrapers and get no thanks for it – what’s important is self-recognition and self-improvement, not what anyone else may or may not provide you with if you achieve a goal.

Proud of you, P.

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

Thanks Dave – you’re a star. I am aware that by sharing stories like this I may seem vulnerable or weak but no, actually I’m just human. By pushing myself to achieve things I will sometimes achieve and sometimes not but as long as I’m happy along the way and so are those around me, then it’s ALL GOOD. I think that honesty shows us all that we’re just the same and if more people were able to be open about how they feel about things we’d all gain great comfort from knowing we’re not alone. xx

Olivia van der Werff May 12, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Well done you taking such a sensible decision for such a good reason. Life is way too short to put oneself through stress and worry for something that is supposed to be fun! It’s so easy to get caught up in these things but when it starts to make you unhappy then it’s time to walk away and do something that feels good.

Georgina Tankard May 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Loves the honesty of your post. It is so important to enjoy the tasks we set ourselves. So much can be learnt from any challenge, sometimes we learn more from things that don’t go so well yet we will beat ourselves up. At lest we tried and learnt along the way, better than not trying at all..

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:25 am

Learning to be kind to myself is one of my big challenges and also one of the challenges I often help clients and colleagues with. At the end of the day, the one person who is around us 24/7 for life is ourselves and being our own best friend will make that journey a far happier one. x

Chris Budd May 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Well done, Paula. You deserve huge congratulations for this decision, because it is clearly the right one for you.

Paula White May 22, 2013 at 9:26 am

Thanks Chris. Your support, kindness and honesty is welcomed and appreciated. It’s nice to be doing these things and being excited by them again. Life brings enough pressure without choosing to take it from things we do by choice. x

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