Most people have heard of SMART goals. This is a mnemonic to remember that effective goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based. This is an effective way to determine what you really want to work towards, and I highly encourage anyone who trains to have a goal, and work for it. However if you do not compete in a sport that takes place on a specific day like powerlifting, weightlifting, crossfit etc, this can have some advantages to how you organize your training. A lot is said about the benefits of competition, (a lot from me as well) however today I want to talk about the good things that can come from not having a specific goal on a specific day.
A Lifetime of Training
The truth of the matter is most trainees don't have a specific time-based goal. This can be problematic, but does convey certain advantages that get overlooked. If you don't have a time-frame for success, that means you have your whole life to do it. That is a wonderful concept. If the amount of time you have to succeed is as infinite as it gets for us humans, that means you will have a hard time failing as long as you give it the old college try. Life is long enough that we can compound some successes into long term progress. Work hard, for a very long time, and you will almost always be well above any initial goals. The longer time-frame of the average trainee can be transformed into a blessing instead of a curse.
What are you training for? Life.
Another benefit to not having a time based goal, is that you do not have to sacrifice as much in order to cram in progress in a finite amount of time. For example the 'average' trainee doesn't have to make the kinds of sacrifices that competitive athletes are willing to make. That means that your habits can be more sustainable, long term, and completely of your choosing. You don't have to drink 2 gallons of water a day, and then no water or sodium for 24 hours before a contest, like a powerlifter trying to make weight. You don't have to keep pounding away on a stress fracture because the race is on Saturday like a marathoner. You can select the eating and training habits that make your life better and not worse. Align goals with behavior to decide what you are really willing to work for, and then get to work.
From Here to Eternity
There is a mental exercise that I've always liked explaining this concept. Imagine that all of humanity is doomed to immortality. We will all live on for thousands and eventually millions of years, and none of us will ever die. Two groups of people will emerge. The first group will do nothing; after all, we've got all the time in the world to do cool things like skydive, climb mountains, and see the world's wonders. But the second group will get to work quick, and live every moment to the fullest, because we've got all the time in the world.
So which group are you in? We do have all the time in the world. We have our whole lives, how do you want to spend it?