Goals and Failure
Goals drive me. Goals push me forward, give me something to work towards. They make me feel committed to something and give me focus. I need to have goals.
So what makes a goal? Is it just a resolution? Like saying on January 1 that I will lose 10 pounds, give up beer, and exercise everyday? Some people with stronger will power than my own may have success that way. They say they're going to do something and then they just do it. I'm not that disciplined. It's easy to say to yourself "I will exercise more", but then there are the long days at work when you just feel drained, the days you have too many errands to run, the days the weather is too hot or too cold, the days where you tell yourself "I can take today off, I'll just workout tomorrow, or the next day, or next week....". It gets too easy to slack off, to make excuses, to say you'll start tomorrow.
No, I need a strategy to reach my goals. A commitment, some way to make it hard to avoid. So I sign up for things - running races, triathlons, swim races, backpacking trips, climbing trips. I sign up, I drop some money, and then I announce it to friends and family. This is my goal. Now it's out there, now I've shared it and invested in it and committed to it. Now I have to work towards it. Put in the training, the planning, and the hard work. Now if I feel like slacking off the consequences are greater - how far back will that set me, how much will I lose in my progress towards my goal?
I've been dragging my feet to tell you about my recent goal. I've been worried that I committed myself to something I can't achieve, something that's just outside of my ability, no matter how purposeful and well intended my training is. I'm embarrassed to think that I might fail, and by telling anyone about the goal I'd have to admit that failure.
But then I started thinking - what is failure? Failure is defined as "a lack of success". So that begs the question - what is success? Is success as simple as achieving a goal? Is it checking off a box on a list? Is success being able to post on Facebook that "I did it!"? Sure, those things are a part of successfully achieving something. But they aren't the whole picture. So maybe the problem isn't that I might fail. The problem is that I've got to redefine success.
I signed up for a 10 mile running race in November. 10 miles. That's literally twice as far as I've ever run, and even that was almost a decade ago, back when running didn't feel like I was stumbling along on two 300 pound sacks of broken bones and wobbly tendons (That's honestly how my legs feel when I run. It's the worst). It took me 6 months, starting with just 1 minute run 1 minute walk intervals, to run a 5k race. I was slow, I was struggling, but I was determined to do my best. That was last weekend. Now I've got only 6 weeks to more than double that distance. Will I be able to run 10 miles? Maybe not. Probably not. But does it matter? Or does it matter more that I try? That I've committed myself to trying, to working hard towards the goal, to getting on that road on race day and being determined to do my best.
Rather than fearing failure, I need to look forward to the effort. I need to believe that no matter what the outcome, I will work hard, I will train hard, I will push myself forward. I may not run 10 miles, but I can try. The only failure would be not trying, telling myself I was a fool for thinking I could do it and giving up. But I won't do that. No matter how hard running is for me, no matter how much I want to quit after the first mile, I will press on. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will not quit.
Whether I run, walk, or crawl those 10 miles come November, I will be successful. Because I set a goal, not to RUN but to TRY. If I never try I will never know just how far I can run.
On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I set out from the hotel for a run in a light drizzle, only to end up in a downpour 3 blocks later.
Rather than turn around, I ran faster.