Use Purpose to Guide Your Process

“Real leadership is not about getting things done. Real leadership is about living a mission that others can follow.”

–Jamie Gilbert

Running My 1st Marathon

In June of 2017, I registered to run my first Marathon that upcoming November. After registering, I sat down to come up with a plan for the race, which was 6 months away.

Like most people, the first thing I did was set a goal!  My goal was this: I wanted to run 26.2 miles in under 4 hours and I didn’t want to walk for any of the race. Well, that was a very motivating goal until August came along, and then I started to realize I was on pace to run a 4-hour marathon. At this stage of my training, I had been consistent with my runs and as a result, I really improved my pace and conditioning.

But I had one problem: I wasn’t focusing on anything else that I could do to reduce my time, such as dieting, stretching, getting enough sleep, etc. As I faced issues, I addressed them. When my feet hurt, I bought new shoes. When I started to have back problems, I went to the chiropractor. When I was plagued with a case of the morning “runs”, I adjusted my diet. But these additions were to address problems that had already happened and were not part of a training program.

On the big day, November 12, 2017, I did achieve my first goal of running under four hours. My final time was 3:59:32. As for not walking… It depends. Do you consider hobbling walking or jogging?

As incredible as it was to complete the marathon, I was reminded of three powerful lessons in the process.

3 Powerful Lessons

1. We rise and fall to the level of our training. The wheels fell off at mile 13. Over the next 13.2, miles my body would start to go into what felt like a full-body cramp. Seriously painful cramps started in my quads, moving to my hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and abdominals. I was suffering from a lack of hydration, poor diet, and mobility issues. On top of that, I started WAY too fast, because I hadn’t trained or given any thought to my pace. But I was mentally determined to finish the race and I battled through the most painful 2 hours of my life to finish just under time.

2. Big goals can be detrimental. I reflected on my training and realized I hadn’t improved my process at all. I should have been making constant 1% improvements as I prepared for the race. Instead, as soon as I saw my goal as achievable – not even certain, just achievable – I let up on trying to improve my process. Without a doubt in my mind, I know that if I had been focused on something other than my goal, I would have had a significantly better time.

3. Focusing on your purpose is more motivational than focusing on a goal. Running with a purpose is more powerful than running with a goal. My purpose for running the race should have been to use the marathon experience to improve my health, focus, and mental toughness. If I had improved my process (such as nutrition, stretching, and sleep habits), not only would I have had a better time, but I would have been a better me.

So are goals even necessary? Not only do I not find them necessary, I do not find them beneficial. At times, they are effective, but only in the short term and in certain instances. One argument would be that as soon as you see your goal is achievable, you should set a new goal – a bigger goal. I agree that this is an effective method, but in the long-term, it still poses some problems, such as encouraging unethical behavior, increasing pressure, and encouraging excuses when things outside of our control prevent us from achieving our goal.

An Alternative to Setting Goals: Use Purpose to Guide Our Process

Let’s use the concept of marathon training as an example to help illustrate the important pieces of this process centered around purpose.


Why are you running and what do you want to get from the experience?To use the marathon experience to improve my health, focus, and mental toughness.


What standards must you live by to get the experience you want from the program?

Little things make a big difference. We rise and fall to the level of our training. Stretching improves recovery time and reduces chances of injury. Maintain a healthy diet – We are what we eat. Doctors recommend a minimum of 7 hours of sleep for people my age.

Values (Strengths)

What values must you actualize to live according to those standards?

  • Muscular Endurance
  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Rest and Recovery
  • Healthy Nutrition
  • Mental Toughness


What are you committed to doing with your time and resources to actualize those values?

  1. I will plan my day out so I can get to bed early enough to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  2. Plan my upcoming week every Sunday to schedule time for my runs.
  3. Schedule a 15-minute stretch routine before every run.
  4. Download the My Fitness Pal app and log every meal I eat and every glass of water I drink.
  5. Plan my meals out at the start of the week and prep food each night for the next day.
  6. Buy a calendar and put an X on each day that I complete my commitments to run, eat healthy, stretch, and sleep.

Call to Action

Whether it be in coaching, business, or wherever you seek growth — create your mission, define the core values of that mission, list the principles that will guide you, and make the commitments necessary to actualize those values. The process of doing this can be done both individually and with your team and is far more transformational than writing down your goals. In fact, I believe it is essential when it comes to shifting your team from being results driven to becoming process driven.

–J.P. Nerbun