Goals, Plans and Mental Toughness

Goals, Plans and Mental Toughness

These are terms most often used by people in the business and corporate communities. But the principles behind them are also used in the health and wellness community to guide people striving to achieve optimal physical health.


We can find a good example of this by examining the protocol of someone training for a marathon. Let’s begin by creating a working definition for a goal. A goal must meet three basic criteria. It must be written. It must be task specific, and it must be time specific. In other words, a goal is “a written, precisely defined task, which must be achieved within a specific time frame.”

Goals, much like concrete building blocks, when properly laid, create the foundation upon which success is built. Each goal achieved makes the foundation stronger and the probability of success greater.

In our example, the goals are classified as: immediate, short-term, intermediate, long-term, and final. The specific time allotted for each goal is determined by the total amount of time available to achieve the final goal. In this case, we have 7 months to train for the marathon.

With that in mind, the timeline of the initial goals is as follows: The “immediate” goal is what the athlete will specifically accomplish on the first day of training. The “short-term” goal is what the athlete will specifically accomplish by the end of week one. The “intermediate” goal is what the athlete will specifically accomplish by the end of week 6. The “long-term” goal is what the athlete will specifically accomplish by the end of week 14. These are the goals established for the first half of the 28 total weeks of training needed to prepare for the marathon. At the end of week 14, the goals will be reassessed, adjusted, and new timelines established. This is where planning comes into play.


A plan is the roadmap used to navigate the path that leads the athlete to their goals. The outline presented above for all the initial goals is the initial plan. But, unlike goals, which must be concrete, the plan must be fluid.

Mike Tyson, the boxer, is known for saying, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.” Although the specific words in this statement are his, the idea behind them is not.

The concept behind those words has been a documented part of military strategy since at least the late 1800’s. Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke first described it in a written essay in 1871 when he wrote, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces.”

When I outlined the goals above, I called them our “initial” goals for a reason. That is because, as von Moltke clearly stated, no plan, no matter how well conceived, is ever completed in its original form. We must be prepared to modify our plan any time something happens that limits or prevents us from achieving our goals.

With that in mind, we should anticipate as many possible roadblocks to our progress as we can, and have contingencies built into our plans to effectively respond to them. To succeed, our plans must be fluid and flexible.

Mental Toughness

Writing goals and creating a plan is one thing. The actual execution is quite another. Getting up and going to work, putting in the time, and staying the course, is where “mental toughness” enters the equation.

We often hear people speak of mental toughness as though it were some sort of magical gift bestowed upon only a select few. I do not believe this is true. It is a trait we all possess to one degree or another. However, the arena in which it is displayed is the most important factor in determining whether it is acknowledged, or not.

Professional athletes, members of the military and Olympians, all celebrated for their mental toughness, have one thing in common. They are widely recognized by the public. The arenas in which they perform are massive stadiums, sports complexes, and fields of battle. Their actions are seen in person, broadcast on television and streamed on the internet. They are constantly in the public eye and, as a result, often become famous and are idolized.

But the fact of the matter is that mental toughness is not unique to them. ANYONE who gets up every day and completes a physical training regimen, in addition to their daily duties of going to work, running a household, or raising a family, demonstrates mental toughness. Their toughness is not recognized simply because the arena in which it is expressed is private, and no one sees them. Let’s be clear. Mental toughness is nothing more than a glamorized term for disciplined dedication. It is the resilient perseverance demonstrated when you choose to: do the things you are supposed to do; when you are supposed to do them; every single time you are supposed to do them and doing them to the very best of your ability.

If this describes you, congratulations! You are mentally tough! This, along with your knowledge of goals and plans, gives you all the tools you need to succeed in whatever you choose to do!

Whether you are currently training for a particular event or are simply training to maximize your own physical health, remember that Shelter Fitness is here to help you with any of your fitness needs!

I would like to formally recognize and congratulate both Michael Lucas and Emily Lucas who successfully completed the 2023 Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon, respectively. The dedicated training regime and intense work ethic they demonstrated while preparing for the race provided the inspiration for this blog.


I am currently retired and no longer a practicing Chiropractor, nor do I hold a current professional license in the medical field. The information presented is solely based on my experiences as a professional and for informational purposes only. Please consult with your physician prior to any new or changing fitness endeavors. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities promoted by this site.

Author Bio - Dr. Andrew J. Lucas

Practiced for more than 30 years as a Chiropractor in Washington, Pennsylvania, specializing in the treatment of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

Graduated from Waynesburg College (now Waynesburg University) in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Graduated in 1985 from the National College of Chiropractic (now National University of Health Sciences) with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology.

In 1989 he successfully completed the Diplomate program for Orthopedics through the postgraduate division of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic.