If your goal is Katahdin by October 15th, pad this by setting an earlier goal date or a soft goal. This way the unforeseen can still result in success.
Break the trail up into more manageable pieces. Think of the journey as shorter parts of the whole. This creates mini-successes as you reach each of these. Some ideas for this may be the quarter way mark, 1,000 miles completed, half way, 1,000 miles to go, etc. These will also let you know if you’re off pace for the end goal so you can adjust your plans to still make that exciting climb up Katahdin.
When you accomplish these intermediate goals, celebrate your accomplishment and reward yourself. This could be a zero and a nice dinner or other food items you withhold until this goal is achieved.
Commit your goals to paper. This is especially important for visual thinkers. This has the effect of making them real and not just in your head. For the trail this will probably be making it to a particular point by a certain date which is in consistent with the end goal.
Commit to your goal. Long strings of zeros or neros won’t get you there.
Tell others about your goals. This will likely be your support team back home or one you developed on the trail. This keeps you accountable and your support team can lift you up if you miss an intermediate goal or help you celebrate when you accomplish one.
Be realistic. If your making your goal involves 30 mile days and you have only accomplished 10 mile days, or you have spent half your money by the quarter way mark, your plan needs adjustment.
Use whichever combination of these work for you and motivate you to continue. After you master the physical and technical aspects of hiking every day the only thing left to master is your thoughts and motivations. There is a lot of time for this which can slowly add pounds to your pack weight until you can’t take another step. Don’t be that guy or gal. End in victory and raise your sting sword to the heavens, but please save the champagne for Millinocket.
Starry eyed excitement in the beginning will only take you so far. If injury or life back home don’t lead to your thru-hike’s demise your funds, motivation and drive may be what sends you home in defeat. The following are some methods which can keep you going through the Virginia Blues, The Whites, the bugs and beyond. The end goal of standing atop the revered a-frame sign is the same for every thru-hiker, except FlipFlops and SoBos, and these methods used by successful people can help make your goal a reality. Listed in no particular order.