top of page

Fifty by Fifty Challenge - Setting EXACT Goals

A significant part of the coaching process is helping clients to identify clear goals and then to work to achieve them. This sounds simple in theory, but can often take a lot of careful questioning. For example, a client might want "to be more successful". That might feel like a goal, but really it is a vague ambition that begs more questions.

Successful at what? Work? Life? Dancing?

How will you know if you've succeeded?

When do you want to achieve this?

What are you prepared to compromise to achieve this?

Is this achievable, and, if so, will you be fulfilled?

A good coach will help you dig really deep on goals in your initial sessions. Then, once they are clear, you'll be ready to work towards them.

When I had the idea for my Fifty by Fifty Challenge (to run 50 miles before I am 50), I had many of the same questions myself. I also knew that if I didn't specify my goal correctly there was a high chance I wouldn't follow through on it. It would remain a vague ambition nagging away at me and making me feel guilty. I wanted to avoid that.

One very well known tool for clarifying goals is the SMART technique. This mnemonic states that goals should be:






This popular management technique has been around since the 1980s. Lots of people love it and find it really useful. I can't stand it.

The reason for this is to do with my personality. Something about SMART goals always feels a bit robotic, mechanistic and fixed. In part, that's the point. Specify your goal precisely and you are more likely to hit it.

But I am not a machine, or a robot. I am creative. I like to explore. I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I don't like to be constrained. I like to run down a path and decide on route which way to turn. (That's literally how I do training runs. Vaguely wandering across paths and fields, following my curiosity.)

And so, I was very fortunate to learn a new technique from a brilliant coach and mentor Catherine Boddington. This is the EXACT technique which says goals should be:






There is a subtle difference in emphasis with this technique. It allows a more exploratory approach to growth. This is what I wrote for my Fifty by Fifty Challenge:

"E - I want to be able to run 50 miles in one go before my 50th birthday. EXPLICIT

X - This is a huge deal. The thought of experiencing this is massive motivation. The feeling of traveling 50 miles from one place to another inspires me to train and could inspire others too. EXCITING

A - I'll either manage to do it, or not. My dream is to do it Sedbergh to Ilkley. But another course would meet the goal. ASSESSABLE

C - The furthest I have ever run is about 16 miles (ed I think it was actually 14) and it exhausted me. I wasn't running much when I set the goal. So it's a huge CHALLENGE, but one I can achieve with planning and discipline.

T - I have until February 2023, but I want to do it between June and August 2022. This will leave time to challenge myself again. TIME-FRAMED

P - I added my own little Plant Powered reminder also. "

What I have found since I set my EXACT goal in this way is that it is really easy to hold it in my mind on the daily and to know whether my actions are contributing to my long term goal. I don't feel like skipping workouts, because each one connects with something deeper.

So, if you are thinking about setting a big goal, make it EXACT or make it SMART as you prefer. Just make sure you write it down as a commitment to yourself.


One of my goals is to coach myself, using the same sorts of techniques I use with clients. I'll be sharing blogs about this that you might learn from too. So please follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you want to know more and share this with people who might be interested. I appreciate the support.

But if this inspires you in any way, what I'd really like you do do is to help me support Women's Health Matters. This small charity is based in Leeds where I work and often train. It is run by wonderful people (including a good friend) who work hard every day to help women and girls who are at risk to make paths to freedom and a better life. Anything you can give, however small, will make a big difference in somebody's life.

£5 - A bus ticket for an asylum seeker to attend group for vital health and wellbeing support​

£10 - A girl experiencing domestic abuse to access an intensive support session​

£20 - Helps support a woman in crisis to find safe overnight accommodation

£50 - Provides creche facilities to enable mums experiencing domestic abuse to attend a support group

So, please donate now, as much as you can.

Thank you. Peace.


146 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page