The Ambition Effect: Setting a Goal Can Change Your Life

When Carol Chau signed up for her first race, she wasn’t anticipating much to come from it—a medal, she assumed, and perhaps a bit of weight loss. She certainly didn’t expect running to transform her life.

As a newly-hired manager in San Jose, Carol dedicated all of her time to her clients and career. She traveled often for her job, her days filled with meetings and networking. For years, she insisted she didn’t have time to run. Besides, she wasn’t the running type, anyway—she had been a casual runner in her youth, but that was 13 years ago. As an adult, her knees ached and her breath was labored.

But in 2013, that all changed with one simple declaration.

“What got me back into running was my sister Helen. Helen had cancer, and it was a surprise for all of us.” Helen underwent a full recovery, and began focusing on her health. “My sister told me she was running a 10K in Hong Kong,” recalls Carol, “and that sparked my interest. I remember saying, ‘Someday, I would like to be able do that.’”

Carol set a goal to make “someday” a reality. First, she saw her doctor to address the knee pain that had kept her from exercising. After that, she found a way to work a training plan into her busy schedule. Finally, she entered a race.

At the finish line of that first race, Carol gleefully sent a selfie to her sister in Hong Kong. They immediately began planning to race a 10K together. A third sister decided to join them as well, and Carol enjoyed their daily group chat of workout summaries, training advice, and selfies at races. An ocean separated her family, but a love of running bridged the gap.

Since that fateful phone call with her sister, Carol has run dozens of races. Her knee pain is gone, she is in the best physical shape of her life, and Carol has even inspired her co-workers to take up running and find time for wellness.

Today, Carol will tell you she still doesn’t have the time to run—she makes the time to run. “Running has certainly changed how I organize my schedule. When I run, I don’t check my emails. Yet somehow, I am able to accomplish more than just sitting in my office doing my job every day.”

Carol’s ambition to be a runner has improved all areas of her life. The processes of working forward—establishing a goal, coming up with a plan, and finding the right resources—have helped her succeed in running and beyond.

“I want to be in the best physical and mental health I can be. Running helps with my self-confidence, stamina and endurance, which makes me better at my job and my life.”

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