Eric, a friend of mine from New York, recently posted on his blog that setting numerous short term goals is a great way to "getting back on the horse" and begin working out after a hiatus. I think this is really sage advice.
When I was a kid of about 11 years old, I mounted a pony and it took off in a full sprint. I couldn't stop the stubborn thing. It ran straight for a fence and then abruptly turned just before hitting it. I was thrown to the ground with no debilitating injuries, except the one to my ego.
I hate riding horses. So I'm glad we're speaking metaphorically here. The point Eric makes is that riding a horse, like committing to and training for a big race or event, can be intimidating. Difficult. You have to be ready for the unexpected and prepare for physical and mental challenges. Once you commit, you're in - or on - to keep the metaphor going. And when you get thrown off (and laughed at - I was with two 5th grade girls), you have to dust yourself off and get right back on.
So let me bring this full circle while I meander through the roundabout point I'm trying to make here. If you want to set a lofty goal and keep your eye focused on "the bigger prize," by all means go out and get on a horse! Hell, visualize yourself as Genghis Khan or Don Quixote and set forth on your journey. Mount your beast and ride it hard. Set your sights on something big. Something that will consume your every weekend. Something that will disrupt the ordinary in your life.
But wait! What if you're not ready to "eye the big prize?" What if you don't want to be Genghis Khan and give up your weekends for conquest? What if you don't want to be Don Quixote teetering between dream-like madness and sanity? Hell, what if you just want to be Quixote's sidekick Sancho Panza and ride a donkey?
What I'm trying to say here is there is a time for a horse and a time for a donkey. That's right, a jackass. You can't always ride a horse (they need rest too). Donkey's are pretty stubborn and slow, but they are steady.
I think there are two good times to ride a donkey. The first is when you're not ready to get back on a horse, but you want to ride something. Something slow and safe that will keep you closer to the ground. Like when you finish a "big prize" event and you're body just isn't ready for another rodeo.
The second time to ride a donkey is when your metaphor is beating a dead horse.