There are a lot phrases that have become clichés designed to motivate people. They all have their place, and what works for one person may not work for another. What I have found is using small, incremental goals is a great way — maybe the only way — to achieve a much larger goal.

Beginning late in 2013, I realized I needed a career change. For much of my life, I led a sports-driven life. That aspect came to a screeching halt when I entered the “real world” after graduating from college, and I desperately wanted it back.

I decided upon a new career: Air Force Pararescue.

It isn’t sports, but it might be the closest thing.

I did my research to learn the physical requirements. Demanding is an understatement, and I needed to pass the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) to even qualify for training. Here are the baseline requirements: 25-meter underwater swim (2x), 500-meter swim in 10 minutes, 7 seconds, 1.5-mile run in 9:47 and 10 pull-ups, 54 sit-ups and 52 push-ups (each with its own 2-minute time allotment.)

It didn’t seem too daunting, but I knew I needed to determine my proficiency in the pool. I couldn’t swim the length of the pool and back, a mere 50 meters. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of work ahead of me.

And that’s where the people at the YMCA started coming out of the woodwork to help.

I had asked Lauren, a lifeguard, for a little advice on how to tread water. (I was trying to get comfortable in the water.) She gave me some tips and suggested I go to the Masters Team’s practices and talk with Dan, the coach.

I did, and astonished myself — and Dan — with the progress I made in one session, one week and one month. I continued to swim with the team for the next couple of months. The time and effort Dan put in allowed me to sail through the swimming portions of the test with ease, but I lacked the strength and stamina for the pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups.

I knew I needed to spend some time in the weight room, so I did. The next time I took the test, I passed the pull-ups, too, but not the sit-ups or push-ups.

I was close to passing the push-up portion, but it was evident I needed some serious work on my core strength. I was managing only about 25 sit-ups.

I needed help, again.

Tracy, a personal trainer, began putting me through the paces with a myriad of core exercises, and introduced me to TRX (body-resistance straps) for a full-body workout. I’m not sure I heard of it before, and part of me wished I still hadn’t. But, rest assured, it works.

When I took the test again, now my third time, I passed the push-ups, which left the sit-ups, my kryptonite, as the final category to conquer.

And that’s where Kaylyn, youth and adult wellness director, came into the picture.

I had been going to her “Kick Some Abs” and “All In One” 30-minute classes. I liked them because I knew I was working my core the way I needed to in order to pass. But I needed more. She agreed and put me through the ringer session after session.

I scheduled the test, and I was the most confident I had been. There was no false hope. There wasn’t any hope in it at all, actually. It had changed to confidence. I didn’t soar through the test by any means, but I did get my 54 sit-ups (about twice as many as the previous test) and qualified for training. I started training to pass the PAST in the middle of November and finally passed it July 1. That’s 7.5 months. As cliché as it is, nothing worthwhile comes easy.

But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It was all the hard work, pain, agony and sacrifice leading up to that test that made the euphoric moment so great.

You can’t expect to jump from the ground floor to the 50th. Smaller accomplishments are needed along the way to make the fall from those failures a lot shorter and easier to get up from and to keep the drive to achieve that big, overarching goal you glance at out of the corner of your eye alive and strong.

Your goal doesn’t need to match mine. Maybe you want to run your first 5K, shed a few pounds or get in better shape. The Y has people that can help, and if you put in the work and don’t cheat yourself, you will get there.

I’m scheduled to leave Oct. 14 for basic, and while there’s no guarantee I’ll make it through two years of training, I am forever indebted to the YMCA staff for their support.

There are a lot phrases that have become clichés designed to motivate people. They all have their place, and what works for one person may not work for another. What I have found is using small, incremental goals is a great way — maybe the only way — to achieve a much larger goal.

Beginning late in 2013, I realized I needed a career change. For much of my life, I led a sports-driven life. That aspect came to a screeching halt when I entered the “real world” after graduating from college, and I desperately wanted it back.

I decided upon a new career: Air Force Pararescue.

It isn’t sports, but it might be the closest thing.

I did my research to learn the physical requirements. Demanding is an understatement, and I needed to pass the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) to even qualify for training. Here are the baseline requirements: 25-meter underwater swim (2x), 500-meter swim in 10 minutes, 7 seconds, 1.5-mile run in 9:47 and 10 pull-ups, 54 sit-ups and 52 push-ups (each with its own 2-minute time allotment.)

It didn’t seem too daunting, but I knew I needed to determine my proficiency in the pool. I couldn’t swim the length of the pool and back, a mere 50 meters. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of work ahead of me.

And that’s where the people at the YMCA started coming out of the woodwork to help.

I had asked Lauren, a lifeguard, for a little advice on how to tread water. (I was trying to get comfortable in the water.) She gave me some tips and suggested I go to the Masters Team’s practices and talk with Dan, the coach.

I did, and astonished myself — and Dan — with the progress I made in one session, one week and one month. I continued to swim with the team for the next couple of months. The time and effort Dan put in allowed me to sail through the swimming portions of the test with ease, but I lacked the strength and stamina for the pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups.

I knew I needed to spend some time in the weight room, so I did. The next time I took the test, I passed the pull-ups, too, but not the sit-ups or push-ups.

I was close to passing the push-up portion, but it was evident I needed some serious work on my core strength. I was managing only about 25 sit-ups.

I needed help, again.

Tracy, a personal trainer, began putting me through the paces with a myriad of core exercises, and introduced me to TRX (body-resistance straps) for a full-body workout. I’m not sure I heard of it before, and part of me wished I still hadn’t. But, rest assured, it works.

When I took the test again, now my third time, I passed the push-ups, which left the sit-ups, my kryptonite, as the final category to conquer.

And that’s where Kaylyn, youth and adult wellness director, came into the picture.

I had been going to her “Kick Some Abs” and “All In One” 30-minute classes. I liked them because I knew I was working my core the way I needed to in order to pass. But I needed more. She agreed and put me through the ringer session after session.

I scheduled the test, and I was the most confident I had been. There was no false hope. There wasn’t any hope in it at all, actually. It had changed to confidence. I didn’t soar through the test by any means, but I did get my 54 sit-ups (about twice as many as the previous test) and qualified for training. I started training to pass the PAST in the middle of November and finally passed it July 1. That’s 7.5 months. As cliché as it is, nothing worthwhile comes easy.

But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It was all the hard work, pain, agony and sacrifice leading up to that test that made the euphoric moment so great.

You can’t expect to jump from the ground floor to the 50th. Smaller accomplishments are needed along the way to make the fall from those failures a lot shorter and easier to get up from and to keep the drive to achieve that big, overarching goal you glance at out of the corner of your eye alive and strong.

Your goal doesn’t need to match mine. Maybe you want to run your first 5K, shed a few pounds or get in better shape. The Y has people that can help, and if you put in the work and don’t cheat yourself, you will get there.

I’m scheduled to leave Oct. 14 for basic, and while there’s no guarantee I’ll make it through two years of training, I am forever indebted to the YMCA staff for their support.

Josh Colligan