When it Comes to Running and Life Goals, Choose Joy
No, I'm not talking about food. Although what you eat is immensely important, the fuel I want to look at today pertains to mindsets and motivations.
When I ran cross country in high school, I was aware of a strong dichotomy in how I ran. The practice-day Ben and the race-day Ben were two very different runners. On practice days I was relaxed, jovial and open to being challenged, running surrounded by comrades. On race days, I was nervous, tense, feeling isolated and wanting the event to be over as soon as possible. At the time, I thought these were merely circumstances I was forced to deal with, only more recently have I discovered that it was my mindsets and motivations that tanked my performance on race days. On practice days, I was fueled by joy. On race days, I was fueled by goals.
I realized that this dichotomy persisted even after cross country and high school were over. I was allowing external triggers to define my posture rather than running my own race, playing my own game. Even through my first marathon, so much of the run was spent just trying to get through, surviving. How could I tap into that pure energy that allowed me to have such great practices? What could I do to ensure that the best me showed up at the start line? By choosing joy.
This last weekend, I ran a 12k with only one goal: Enjoy every step of the process. The great news is, I did! I accomplished that goal, and I had more fun running than I have in a long time. I was able to spur on and encourage other runners. Rather than focusing on time, I remained present to my body to keep moving easy, light, smooth and then fast. Beyond running, the race this weekend reminded me of how I want to live my life.
I still want to have big goals, and I still do. From running long distances to starting meaningful businesses, I have things I want to do in the world. The key I am putting into practice for myself is that it is not deadlines and goals that will alone inspire me to accomplish things, but remaining present to joy and the process of creation. When I am out running, every moment of the journey is sacred. It's nice to have mile-markers and to be aware of progress, but those feedback loops don't keep me in the race, my own joy in running does.
When I get so fixated on a destination, I forget about the joy of the journey. What is my fuel? Joy. It's what keeps me running, creating and inspiring. For running and for all of your life, choose joy.