The hard road to success: 5 keys to achieving your goals

Article by Jason Croston


Just around Fenway Park heading into Boston, my watch clicks over the 40km mark – 2 hours and 47 minutes. Only 2.2km to go.

I’m excited because I’m running the Boston Marathon and I’m on track to complete a marathon in under three hours for the first time – both goals I have been chasing for the past three years.

I’m concerned because, despite a near-flawless first 30km, the last 10km has been hell, physically and mentally. I’ve desperately wanted to stop running and I’ve had to force myself to keep going using every trick in the book.

I turn into the famous home straight on Boylston Street. Only 500m to go but I still have doubts. There are people around me wobbling and dropping like flies. What if that happens to me? I put one foot in front of the other, and finally cross the line: 2 hours 56 minutes and 58 seconds!

Immediately, all of the physical and mental pain is gone and I’m overcome with emotion. I feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I’ve finally done it!

5 ways to stick to your goals – and nail them

Running the Boston Marathon and finishing a marathon in under three hours were big personal goals that I worked towards for three years. I sometimes felt that I would never achieve either; I never in my wildest dreams expected to get both at once!

My first attempt at going under three hours was on the Gold Coast three years back. I was going so well and then my groin muscle gave out after 25km and I limped home. Two years ago, I ran a marathon hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon and missed by only 61 seconds. Then, last year in Canberra, I again had a shot at going under three hours and missed the mark by a measly 37 seconds. In all these scenarios, there were factors outside of my control – but there were also things that I could have done better.

This experience has taught me so much. Here are five key lessons I’ve learnt that can be applied to any goal. Give them a try!

1. Be consistent and focus on small, incremental improvements over time.

I completed my first ever marathon in just under four hours. Six years on, I have reduced this time by one hour through a consistent effort. I was never going to knock a whole hour off my run in my second marathon – I needed to improve gradually over time.

2. There will be setbacks and pain at times. Accept that fact and keep going.

Injuries, distractions, life changes – every barrier you can think of will be thrown your way as you work towards your goal. Accepting that reality is the quickest way to move forward.

3. You will doubt yourself. Acknowledge your thoughts and carry on.

At times I wondered if it was all worth it. Even on the finishing straight in Boston, I thought I still might fail. It’s normal to feel this way. Observe and acknowledge your thoughts, accept them for what they are, then let them go.

4. The 80/20 rule rules. 

The 80/20 rule comes up so often in all areas of life. In training, typically 20 percent is an effort session designed to improve my performance. The other 80 percent in training is general running and building a base. Without the 80 percent base, the 20 percent of focus on improvement will not have the same impact – don’t neglect the core work.

5. The simpler the plan, the more likely you are to succeed.

I had a simple plan in Boston: set my watch to tell me my 5km splits, aim for 20-21 minutes for each, and take a gel every 10km. My mantra was consistency, control and patience – and it worked.

Best of luck!

From career aspirations to fitness goals, try applying these five tips to your own life. Some challenges can seem insurmountable – there are mistakes and pain and doubt – but there is no fad diet, magic pill or quick fix. The only way to reach a goal is through persistent and dedicated effort over time. You can do it!