Career Corner: A Radical Approach to Goal Setting

Posted by on August 7, 2012

Jessica Bauer ~ Director of Career Services

After failing to meet my goal of completing a ½ marathon for the second time in a year, I have decided to take on a new approach to a goal I set for myself almost three years ago.

For those who have always been fitness enthusiasts and avid runners, I will admit my jealousy and strong dislike for you immediately.  My passion for running is nonexistent, but, you see, I have always WANTED to be a runner.  In grade school, I always admired the students who could run a mile in less than 8 minutes who smiled brightly the whole time, while I completed my hopeful sub 10 minute jaunt huffing and puffing.  So as my late twenties come approaching, and I fail at successfully attaining a goal I set a year prior, I decided it was time to embark on a new path to success, I hope that some of you decide to join me.

As previously stated, I intend to complete my first ever half marathon.  This is not an easy feat for someone who has never ran over 3 miles on a consistent basis.  After researching a training program and signing up for the Long Lake Half Marathon on October 13th, all
things I have done before, I decided to try a “radical approach to goal setting” as described by Alex Shalman.

Shalman takes goal setting on a different route by doing it backwards.  He instructs the goal setter to list the goal and then take a backward approach to achieving it.  For instance, my goal of completing a half marathon by mid-October allows me to have 10 weeks for training.  The first step back from competing in a half marathon would actually mean I must be able to run 13.1 miles.  As the training program I have selected suggests, I must run 10 miles the weekend before the big race, so that would be my first step back.  I would continue on this path until I get to my current week 1, and must run 4 miles this weekend.


Here is how Shalman describes the process:

Reverse Goals:

Now that you have your goals in place, you can take 3 steps backwards from goal to present.  In the example above we used September 1st, 2009, as our deadline for saving $10,000.  This is fine and doable, and we’ll work backwards.  There are of course rules to the game.

Meet the following criteria:

  1. Work backwards and take 3 big steps
  2. Write down as if you have acquired, not as if you will get
  3. Let there be no excuses.

For example:

  1. September 1st, 2009 I have saved $10,000
  2. June 1st, 2009 I have saved $7,000
  3. January 1st, 2009 I have saved $3,500
  4. July 1st, 2008, I have saved $500

Congratulations! You have arrived at ground zero.

Forward from Ground Zero:

Ground zero is right now, the present, without the past, and with a future that is inspiring, contributing and making a difference.  Hold on, it’s not time to celebrate yet.  This is the fun part where we get to fill in the pieces.

Now that we have our major milestones and we are looking at a future without a self-limiting past, we can plan direct actions that will bring us to each milestone one step at a time.

What to do now:

  1. Create a to do list.
  2. Work out the details and direct actions towards each milestone.
  3. Keep each action as simple as possible.

The to-do list will give you a daily focus as to what your next step should be.  You’ll never be stuck in a rut for what to do because you have this paper to guide you.  This will take out a lot of the confusion, and the small action steps will take away the fear and ambiguity of tackling a huge project.


Take care to review your paper often, especially your big way.  This will serve as your motivation and light a fire under you.  Use this technique for all your major and minor goals.  This will allow you to live a life where your word means something, a life of
accomplishing what you set out to do – a powerful and happy life.

With summer approaching its close, now would be a great time to get a head start on goals you would like to set for yourself this coming year.  Those goals could range from finishing a paper, to getting a new job.  For assistance with either be sure to reach out to staff at the Brooklyn Center Campus.  Follow Shalman’s approach and utilize a goal chart as well.  Best of luck to you!

Goal Setting Worksheet

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