For goals around a specific time, I recommend making several goals. From past experience, I know I can easily run a 5:40 per mile pace for a half marathon with minimal training. As such, the low end of my goal is a 74 minute half. Depending on how my training goes over the next two months, it may become reasonable to aim for 5:30 per mile pace, or a 72 minute half. For now, I am placing that as my primary goal. My stretch goal would be to hold 5:20 per mile pace, which would have me finishing in just under 70 minutes.
As you can see, I have a range here rather than just one time. I have the slow end of what I expect I can do, the main goal that is likely still well within my ability, and a stretch goal that would excite me greatly to accomplish.
There should also be process goals held as valuable and important as well. These are related to how training will go and what the process of racing will be like. For me. I created a training program that will be somewhat challenging but still well within my capacity. Completing it will bring its own satisfaction, especially since it will provide a good base for races a little farther away.
Part of my training goals include completing the cross training and holding myself to a higher standard of nutrition and overall hydration. I also expect I will lose a pound or two, which combined with the ab workouts will please my vanity. As you can see, part of goal making involves brutal honesty- while not a primary motivator for me, vanity is still there hanging out in the background.
Then there are the process goals around the race itself. I want my training program and the race in particular to be done with a very specific meditation I developed while I was a sponsored marathoner. That meditation feels like it powers my running in even a physical way, and lends itself to greater joy, love, power, and relaxation. Above any other goal, my primary goal is to be able to run in a focused way with this meditation.
Finally, there are the broader goals and motivations that begin to merge into my own values as I continue to examine them. I run in general for several major reasons. I value a healthy and fit lifestyle because I believe it will lend itself to a longer and more enjoyable life (hopefully cheaper on the medical bills too!).
I love running because it relieves stress and provides a very powerful overall sense of well being. Running merges with my value system as well, because it is one of the most effective ways to assure myself of being the kindest, most compassionate, and grounded person I can be. Since coaching is my job, running myself also makes me a better coach. It is also one of the primary pathways in my life for personal growth and understanding.
Most fundamentally, my curiosity and passion in life is centered mostly around how the mind, body, and spirit come together to create not only a meaningful life, but greater joy and even improved performance. Running is an amazing petri dish of sorts to explore that.
Goals are also crucial to hold lightly. They are signposts along the way, markers of our continued alignment with our deeper motivations and values. They aren't meant to be confused with who we are, or to be taken as anything more than an opportunity to see what you can do and learn from it if you wish. You are not your performance, and you are not your goals.
So as you can see, goal making has several major levels to it. We must have a range of times for a specific race, goals centered around the process of training and racing, and finally give ourselves a deeper context for what moves us to do it in the first place. Its also important to note that the more superficial layers are goals that we strive towards, and the deeper layers are actually motivations that power us forward almost as if someone was pushing us from behind. Our deeper motivations and values are the motivations, and the goals are how we want to do in a race or in the process of training.