The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard pointed out “life must be understood backwards…it must be lived forwards.” Only once we know the end point can we understand the steps leading up to it. This has powerful implications for setting—and achieving—goals. You cannot wake up one morning and run a marathon. If you tried to do so, it would lead to catastrophic injury. It takes careful planning, working backwards from the 26.2 miles of a marathon through shorter distances at strategic intervals to your current level of fitness. Once a plan is in place, you embark on the process of diligent training, logging mile-after-thankless-mile. Long runs on Saturdays are punctuated by shorter distances throughout the week. Stamina and endurance are built up slowly over days and weeks and months. Raceday is the capstone that brings all the foundational work together in one crowning achievement.

Why do we think our careers are different? If we want to achieve a significant career landmark, such as becoming a college president, we must first sit down and define intermediate goals to get us there. Becoming a dean and then vice president are the long-run milestones that mark our progress to presidency. Building leadership skills and developing our network are some of the incremental jogs that enable us to continue our forward progression.

Finally, we will be most successful if we have training partners to keep us company and cheer us on. Who are like-minded colleagues that can spur on your performance and keep you on track with your short- and long-term career goals? Together, you can go the distance.