How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: The 70% Secret in Goal Setting + Running

Before I started coaching I decided that I would NOT coach unless I had my own success, and could walk my talk.  I needed to experience all of the successes and failures from the ground up.

Athletes & Goal Setting

Goal setting and achievement is an area I thrive in.  I’ve studied the most successful people and applied their perspectives and mindsets.  Both to myself and the people I work with.

Over the years I’ve fine tuned it and developed my own system.  In my full time work, I help athletes with their goal settingThe high level athletes, for example, the olympic athletes I work with…they smash the sh*t out of their goals.  It’s going to be done.  It’s what they do.  That’s why they are at their level.  So for them, there’s more focus on the mindset side.

You can get to a goal via a “tough” mindset.  What I’ve observed over 3000 hours of advising / coaching, is that it burns people out and drains willpower.   My focus with those types is longevity and sustainability.  I know lots of athletes who use intense pressure, self criticism, and high expectations.

Yeah, they’ll medal.  But interestingly enough, with them I see a loss of balance, strange injuries and illnesses come up, highs and lows in their performance, and other segments of their life fall out of balance.  There’s just negative ripple effects all over the place.

So that got me interested.  And I started self-experimenting.


With the Great Maternity Leave Project I’m constantly researching + applying it to my own mat leave + tweaking it so other mat leavers can benefit 🙂


To get different results, you must take a different approach.  Same actions get the same results.  This is a model we use in professional coaching.

This may not work for you.  I write about all sorts of things on the GML because I want you to be exposed to lots of ideas – some you’ll hate.  Some you’ll love.  Some will work for you.  Some won’t.  I want you to pick & choose.  Try those that stick with you.

Here’s one of my secrets to smashing the sh*t out of your goals.

No human being hits 100% of their goals in all areas of their lives.  It’s not possible.  It would be a different world if everyone could achieve their goals.

Whenever I coach and work with my clients, my high achievers often have the most difficulty.  They get to their goals, but struggle with longevity, generating energy and willpower.  They’re quite tough on themselves. Shooting for 100% and expecting 100% the whole way.  Their mind is blown when I tell them they can get the same results with a 70% mindset.

I like 70%.  It’s a really nice number.


But there’s such negative connotations with 70%.  In University my students are hard on themselves with a 70%.  It’s a B- or C+ in some classes.  It’s never good enough.  Everyone’s always going for the A+.

So going into this article, think about your mindset around 70%.  What were you taught to think about 70%?  For example, what was your family’s response if you bought home a 70% on something.

Side note:  My “Cs get degrees” peeps that I advise are much, much happier than my A+ students.  I see both groups, because the goal is the same. Get a degree.  But the coaching is much different.


The Breakdown.

Scenario A:  We set a goal.  Life is a perfectly controlled experiment.  Everything is predictable.  In those conditions, we can achieve the goal with 100% efficiency.  A+ grade. A+ effort.

Scenario B:  We set a goal.  Real life happens.  Unpredictability.  Life skims the edges off of that 100% execution and it winds up being a 70% execution. B effort. Even if we are super effective.  Sadly though, when Scenario B happens, we fight it and set ourselves up with the mindset of failure.  B is not good enough.   But what if a B effort still got you an A grade?  Or an A+?

What would happen if you backed off from 100% to 70% and embraced that 70%?  If you embraced a more relaxed approach to your goal and adjusted expectations?  TRY IT OUT.

I did. And guess what?

1.) Profound things happen because mental energy has been freed up. It pulls you out of your mind and into the present moment.

I’ll shape this for you in the following section.

2.) You experience a powerful shift in your drive.  You stop relying on willpower (not good,) and start using the power of memory and gratitude to drive your motivation.

Willpower is Think of willpower as a sketchy friend.  Super sketchy. There’s research to back it up.  If you want to read more on it, here’s a great rundown of the finite nature of willpower. 

–>  Tip:  Open a new tab so you can get through this blog first.  One thing at a time.

A Real Life Application of the 70% Principle

I set a rather ridiculous goal for myself on 1st mat leave. Rather than just run a 10k I decided to jump out of a helicopter and run down a mountain, the path only marked with ribbons in trees.  That still makes me laugh.

I started training, knowing I had 12 weeks to do it.  I, motivated Carina, struggled like you wouldn’t believe those first few weeks. I couldn’t get my stuff together. My willpower started strong and drizzled away.  And I used all of the magical motivators I know of.  The epic images I added to my pinterest goals / vision board and a photo I saved to my iphone background.

The photo I saved to my iPhone background to keep my mind focused.


I was doing all of these amazing trail runs and coming back drained, sore, and unmotivated to go out for the next long run.

One day I was running down in our provincial park.  As I came through a thick forest, smacking branches out of the way (ironically I describe my running style as “bear crashing through forest”) I stopped with my hear in my throat.  A HUGE creature stood up and looked right at me.

It looked like those crazy bamboo houses on stilts you see in exotic holiday pictures of Bali.  A giant structure on thin dangly legs.   A FULL SIZED MOOSE.  Terrified, I ran as fast as I could in the other direction.  The feeling was mutual.  She ran away just as scared of me.

That very same run, a few minutes after my adrenals had recovered, I saw a gorgeous bald eagle soar overhead and land in a true.  Holy sh*t I thought. I am having the most ridiculously Canadian experience and it is very, very cool.  I paused my GPS tracker and looked around.  I was running along this beautiful trail, rimmed with copses of birch trees, and my feet were cushioned by soft mossy ground.  It was spectacular.  I half assed that run. I got the distance done but in a very, very slow time.  I was too busy stopping and taking photos to post later on instagram.  The funny thing is at the end of that 12k run, I felt the best I have ever felt after a run. I felt profound grattitude, and a craving for more of whatever it was that just happened. 

The moment it all clicked.

The same day I did the same. I went in with an idea of my distance, but threw my time goals out of the window.  I decided I’d aim for around 70% of my original time so at least I was still making some effort.  You know what?  It gave me time to stop, absorb the moment I was in, and enjoy it.  It took my run from pain and suffering to immense enjoyment and immersion in nature. For the first time I was not stumbling on rocks because I was there, with the trail.  Instead of just running on it. I was out of my 100% perfectionist mindset inside of my head, listening to the GPS and relying on willpower.

I was in the moment.  It’s often called the flow.  Successful people know the flow.  It’s like this great big secret… And I’ll definitely talk more about it. It’s profound.

Relying on the energy of the natural environment around me and my own enjoyment of the experience was a game changer.  The rest of those 12 weeks, I went into each run with this new mindset, this new perspective, and embraced the 70%.

I am very much a visual learner and I wish I could “screen shot” the images in my brain for you so that you could see a picture version of these thoughts.

Here’s the best attempt.  I’ve juxtaposed the two training experiences.








The glorious result.

On September 21st, 2014 when I jumped out of a helicopter, onto the shores of a mountain lake, ready to run 21k DOWN a mountain, through the Canadian Rocky Mountain wilderness I was so ready for it.   I ripped through that run in a great time for someone who only trained at 70%.

I got better results than I would have with a 100% “balls to the wall” approach.  With a 70% approach, I was tapped into a deeper motivator than willpower. I was tapped into creation of memories.  The experience itself.  Being in the present moment.

Oh, and I did it 3 weeks pregnant.

They say when you conclude your earthly life, memories will run through your head in vivid detail.  They are the great memories of your life.  For me it will not just be that epic run, it will be every single training run leading up to it.  I don’t need to go back and look at my Runkeeper app photos to remember the run (though I love looking at those anyways.)  

They are all there in this beautiful memory bank that keeps me going on the trails, every time I get out there.



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