Derailed Goals


As a runner, I’m expected to give myself goals. It’s the thing that runners do. We set goals, train hard to get enough fitness to achieve them (usually in the form of some sort of race time), and then we evaluate and set new ones. This cycle is familiar to anyone who is a runner.

However, there are some people who are exceptions, and I happen to be one of them. I’m someone who hasn’t set any “real” goals in running for over a year now. An injury was certainly part of the problem, but there was (and still is) something else: paralysis.

When you’re working in a field, you usually want to look at others to know what they are up to. This helps inspire us to keep chugging along and grinding away at our work. Unfortunately, I’ve found that looking at others’ goals paralyzes me. An easy example is the past Olympics. During this time, I watched as some of the fastest in the world gutted it out on the track and On the roads. This got me all ready to once again train for some faster races. However, my goal at the time was not to do that. I was thinking about other races.

Fast forward to now, and I’m torn between what I want to do. I think I really want to see what I’m made of in a long trail race, but then I’ll watch or hear about another runner who has made a breakthrough in their training for a short and fast race, and suddenly my goals go out the window as their kind of racing seems more appealing. Instead of sticking with my goal, it’s as if I get lured away by the next shiny thing. I say this with no small amount of irony as I type away while facing my wall with race bibs that aren’t the kind of race I want to run next season.

There’s always the null solution: ignore everyone else. But that’s no fun, so I’m in a spot where I want to lock down on a goal but not feel like I’m a slave to it. At the same time, I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. We all live our own lives, and it’s okay if I don’t follow the path everyone else does.

I can extend this to other areas of life in general. I’ve found that it’s alluring to chase the new thing that others are doing, but it’s much more difficult to buckle down and do the work that I need to do. I’m getting better at it – my writing here is a testament to that – but I regularly need a reminder. Don’t let yourself be derailed by the goals of others. Pick something, and work towards it. And most important of all: remember that you aren’t tied to this goal for the rest of your life.

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