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CEO interview

Adrian Gore: Setting goals can be truly transformative

Published: 22/11/2022

Through his personal challenge to run a mile in five minutes, Vitality founder and Discovery CEO Adrian Gore is showing why setting goals can be a pathway to finding true meaning, writes Vitality Chief Editor Adam Saville.

We’ve all heard the sporting adage: ‘It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.’ Well, the CEO of Vitality parent company Discovery, Adrian Gore, is supercharging this concept. By preparing himself to run a mile in five minutes, at the age of 58, he’s setting himself what he calls “a stretch challenge”.

Inspired by the Vitality Mile, a mass participation event through Westminster, the accessible distance might make it seem easy enough. But to meet his goal, Adrian will need to sprint the entire distance – at around 12mph – given that the world record is only around 10 to 15 seconds faster. Only 1% of males in Adrian’s age category are said to be able to run a mile in 7 minutes and 39 seconds1.

Even for top runners, running a mile in five minutes is no small feat, let alone a self-proclaimed “casual runner” in his late-50s. That’s why he’s drafted in the likes of Vitality Ambassador and multiple gold medal winner Lord Sebastian Coe and esteemed leadership advisor Gillian Stamp to give him the inspiration needed to get through it.

Obviously, he’s going to give it his best shot – otherwise, what’s the point? – but, for Adrian, it’s the act of pushing himself to achieve it that is significant. It is less about the destination than it is the journey.

“It’s truly transformative”, he explains over a video call from Johannesburg, while in the throes of a stringent training routine that is seeing him get up at 5am each morning. “Setting yourself a challenge and trying to get there, you are never the same at the end of it. Even if you don’t achieve the goal, you are infinitely better off than not having set it in the first place,” he explains.

"Setting a goal can give you a sense of meaning, no matter what you're facing in life"

- Adrian Gore, Discovery CEO

Three reasons why

For Adrian, the why behind his ‘Strive for Five’ challenge has three layers. Firstly, it chimes perfectly with a key aspect of his organisation’s core purpose: to make people healthier. “The Vitality view is that everyone can take steps to improve their health and the data and evidence of the effectiveness of physical activity cannot be refuted.”

Secondly, it connects the concept of goal setting with one of the laws of behavioural economics that the Vitality Programme uses to actually initiate positive lifestyle choices for its members, known as ‘loss aversion’ – or the cognitive bias theory that humans dislike losing something twice as much as they like gaining something. “When you put something out there in the form of a goal, something is at stake, and your motivation is triggered in a profound way - to achieve, and not to lose.”

Thirdly, Adrian’s view is that we’re all facing challenges in the world today, especially in light of a turbulent global economy and social unrest internationally. “Setting personal goals can be a powerful antidote to this,” he says. “When people have an aim, it sets them on a journey that gives them agency and an affirming sense of self determination. I’ve seen that in my own experience.”

Setting goals gives us meaning

The speed and distance of the goal is ultimately irrelevant, it just needs to be challenging. “This is what gives us hope and meaning,” Adrian explains.

For individuals overcoming something as life-changing as cancer or battling with depression, setting milestones to achieve a goal – no matter how small they might seem, like walking a certain number of steps – can be powerful tools during their recovery.

It can be inspiring for others too. Thousands of people have reacted to his ‘Strive for Five’ challenge on LinkedIn, and many have shared goals they have set themselves as a result, from learning to play a complex piece of classical music, to embarking on a PHD.

Despite this, Adrian does not want to overplay his own individual achievement. He’s keen for his challenge to be considered as part of a bigger picture. Regardless of whether he succeeds or not, his hope is to shine a light on how setting personal goals can lead us to discover a deeper sense of meaning and optimism, especially when the word around us is uncertain. This is at the core of Vitality and its parent company, which was recently named in Fortune Magazine’s Change the World list due to its positive social impact through innovation.

“I’m hoping that if – as Vitality – we can help people to make meaningful changes in their own lives, we should be very proud,” he explains. “We’re not just a transactional insurer that pays claims. If we, as a business, can help inspire people to better themselves as part of our community, that is wonderful. After all, this is what we have always set out to do as an organisation,” Adrian concludes.

To follow Adrian Gore and his Strive for Five challenge follow him on LinkedIn or the hashtag #VitalityMile on social media.

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1. US Army Physical Fitness Test