Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Inside Beta

Michaela Kiersch: Setting Goals

I had a big, massive, huge goal for 2018. Here's how I made sure it didn't overwhelm me while still working toward it.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 40% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

40% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $2.99/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

A large goal of mine this year was to send Necessary Evil (5.14c), an infamous route with heinous crimps in the Virgin River Gorge, Arizona. It would be a stretch, no question about it. But I felt it was possible, if only just… Yet, balancing a potentially all-consuming goal like Necessary Evil, with all of the other smaller, but no less important goals I had for myself, doesn’t just happen automatically. Most of the time, I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accommodate all of the things I would like to do, let alone think about the things for the next day or the next month.

Over the years, I have developed my own strategy for overcoming this and ultimately to achieve the goals that I set for myself. Here’s what it looks like.

My morning routine consists of heading straight to the coffee maker and then sitting down and writing a list. I have two notebooks: one is my “long-term to-do list” and one is my “short-term to-do list”; I periodically draw items from the former and add them to add to the latter. My long-term list contains things like “plan trip to CO” or “figure out birthday presents for August.” The short-term list is more like a daily set of goals to accomplish, things that need to get done no matter how small or large.

I also have a separate category for climbing specific goals. Something powerful happens when you write down a goal you’d like to accomplish. For me, deciding that I want to do something isn’t enough. I need to decide that I am actually going to do it.

I use three levels of goal setting in my climbing.

Level one is called “self-confidence goals.” These are extremely important because it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re only trying to tackle big things. I need some easier tasks to keep my motivation high and in check. Some of my self-confidence goals may include things like: the tricky pink V6 slab at the gym or climbing seven V7s in my bouldering session.

The second level is “realistic goals.” These can be a little bit tougher to sort out. Realistic goals are not easy but they are reasonable. Most of my realistic goals include things like sticking to my training plan, going to yoga twice a week, running, etc. They might also be tougher specific tasks, like regaining my ability to do a one-arm pull up. I use these to push myself into the right direction and to ensure that I am getting stronger.

Finally, and arguably the most important, are the “stretch goals.”  I experience the most success, failure and growth because of this category. I also rarely accomplish the things that I put on this list, maybe one or two a year. If you feel like you are able to check things off this list regularly then they are not stretch goals, they are realistic goals and you need to dream bigger! It is important to challenge yourself with things that seem out of reach—if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone, it’s very difficult to see any improvement. Whether I actually accomplish the goal or not, I am learning and bettering myself along the way. Maybe I won’t ever be able to do some of the items on my list, but if I can achieve just one of my dreams then it is well worth the effort.

Goal setting can sometimes seem daunting because you need to be vulnerable enough to honestly assess what you are capable of now and what you truly think you are capable of in the future. It is not easy to subject yourself to a high likelihood of failure but it is necessary to achieve personal success.

So start with the small goals, write them down and let yourself dream up to the big ones. Then go do them!

Here is a real-life example of my goal setting process and a time where it led me to success:

Self-confidence goals

These are things I know I can do on almost any given day

—Regularly flash V6 in the gym

—Campus 1st rung to 5th rung

—Hang 10+ seconds on 6mm edge

—Drink at least two Nalgene bottles of water a day

—Paint my nails once a month

Realistic goals

These are things that are challenging to stick with or actually finish, but I know I am fully capable of doing

—Train 5-6 days a week

—Complete 1 hangboard and 1 campus workout a week

—Run 3x a week for at least 30 minutes

—Cut down on Kit Kats

—Go to VRG every weekend (weather permitting)

Stretch goal

This is my overarching dream that may or may not be possible

—SEND NECESSARY EVIL (5.14C) IN 2018 (✓)

MICHAELA KIERSCH, from Chicago, IL, is a fresh college grad of DePaul University and a professional climber. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Among her most notable sends are Pure ImaginationLucifer and the first female ascent of Golden Ticket-–all 5.14c. She was a former US National Champion in both bouldering and lead. Her favorite color is purple.

Also Read

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Strawberry Pencil Pick-Me-Up

Alex Johnson: Am I Still A Professional Climber?

Tom Randall: Training Tips – Mental Games With Hazel Findlay

Michaela Kiersch: An Interview with Climbing PT Carrie Cooper

Also Watch

VIDEO: Michaela Kiersch – First Female Ascent of Necessary Evil (5.14c)