Using the Power of Story to Set Goals

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Use story to accomplish your goals

I remember the first time I arrived in the Pacific Northwest as a 20-year-old kid just trying to figure out how to keep himself alive much less run the premiere whitewater extreme race on the West Coast.

One of the many jobs that landed in my lap along with The Oregon Cup, was to kayak to the start line of the Canyon Creek Extreme Race to run timing for the event.  This meant I had to somehow get myself and a synchronized stopwatch not just to the biggest waterfalls on the river, but safely start over 40 racers and then run the course for the first time blind, and solo.

I remember the moment I started the final racer.  I had been too occupied with getting accurate times and managing the event it hadn’t struck me until that moment.  I was going to have to run the biggest waterfall I had ever done for my first time all alone.

Everyone else was well downstream.  I closed my eyes and imagined every stroke.  I imagined the sensations, the timing, the balance and tension I would need inside my boat.  I imagined the mist rising up to hit my face as I fell toward the pool below bracing for impact.  Every. Single. Detail was there with vivid realism, to the point where it felt like I had already run the drop.

At the highest levels of sport, athletes and coaches have long been harnessing the power of the human mind for elite performance. We often hear about athletes visualizing their moves and outcomes before they compete.

Years ago, as a wilderness guide and action sport coach teaching people to run waterfalls in kayaks, I started having my athletes run training sessions in their minds just as I had at the big race. They would ‘practice’ sticking the moves they needed to win, or simply survive.

By creating something the human brain engages with, you create the potential for action. By telling a goal-focused story, you practice sticking the moves you need to win too.

Creating a detailed goal story can help reveal someone’s why, and what truly motivates them. It’s a great tool for strategic planning, and can help bring partners together toward a common goal.  (Even if they never intend on running a waterfall in their lives)

Give it a shot. A simple story could change your course for 2022 or maybe even your whole life!

As for my first big waterfall… each stroke fell into place on the slow approach to the lip.  Soon the stark horizon line sank lower and lower beneath the front of my boat until I could see into the depths below.  With one giant stroke and tightly held breath, I came crashing down into the pool at the bottom of the drop with a victory cry I’m pretty sure they could hear all the way to the finish line!  Phew!  Made it…


Visit: to create your very own Goal Story!