Whenever I go for any sort of long run, one of the hardest things for me to do is to not think too much about the end goal. I don’t want to think about how far I need to run, how many miles, or even my final destination. This is because when I do this, it becomes very easy for me to forget about the journey and concentrate too much on the destination.
Goals Can Be A Distraction
Over the last few years, something has become very obvious to me whenever I go for a run.
I didn’t quite understand it at first but now it makes total sense.
Whenever I walk out my door and I tell myself that I am going to go for a specific length of a run, like 1 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles, or whatever, I noticed that it was incredibly hard for me to get anywhere near my intended goal.
Even on the shorter runs, setting a specific distance always seem to coincide with me abandoning my run without completion.
Conversely, whenever I would go out and hit the pavement with no destination in mind, just the wind in my hair and the paver believe my feet,
I found that I was able to long run much longer distances without the same feelings of fatigue and pain. It didn’t make much sense to me for quite a while, so I just sort of put up with it. I would try to avoid setting any sort of specific destinations or distances and would try to do more runs that were just more endless feeling.
Seeing The Process With The Goal
However, having recently started a new challenge where I have to run a 5K every day for 60 days, I have been spending a lot of time not just running, but thinking about why I find it so difficult to complete these runs that have specific distances and destinations.
During this challenge, much like the 30-day challenge I did earlier in the year, every run seems treacherous and like it’s taking forever.
Every step feels like my millionth step, and even though it only takes me about 25 to 30 minutes to finish, it feels like a lifetime.
I Think A Lot When I Run
So as I’ve been out there running and thinking about how it’s so easy for me to go out and run 10 miles accidentally, but seemingly impossible for me to intentionally ran 1 mile, something very interesting came to mind.
I started thinking about different types of goal setting and how I have approached those in the past.
Whenever I look back, I realize that many times in my life I have set big goals for myself, only to abandon them once the hard work started. It was very easy for me to look up and see the top of the mountain, but I often didn’t factor in the requirements of the difficult climb that would have to be considered in order to get there.
I wanted the mountain top, but I didn’t want to climb the mountain. Unfortunately for me, that’s just not how things work.
Which Is More Important? The Goal Or The Process?
Setting big goals for yourself is one of the most important things you can do in order to help create progress in your life.
Indeed, the blind do lead the blind, so without some sort of vision, it’s just hard to really make any sort of forward progress in life.
And if we’re being blunt, that’s sort of the easy part.
It’s easy to think big, dream big, look into our theoretical crystal balls and picture a life that makes us feel like life is worth living. Visions of grandeur are not difficult
In fact, I know I’ve spent a good chunk of my life spending more time in a fictional fantasy world and I have the real world that I’m actually living in. That part is easy, I’m a dreamer. A lot of us are dreamers.
It’s The Distance Between You And Your Goal That Matters
But big goals also mean having big gaps between where you’re currently at and where you want to go.
The top of the mountain is a long way away, an incredible distance from where you’re currently standing. And while it’s easy to envision standing at the top of that mountain regardless of how far away it is, there are 1 million steps between that peak and your place, and even more mental hurdles.
And that gap is where most of us lose our motivation to get there.
And that’s not because the goal isn’t worth fighting for, it is.
It’s because whenever we set the goal, we only saw the goal. We only saw the end in mind, without considering all of the steps, all of the missteps, all of the falls and trips, and all of the mishaps along the way.
We have diamonds in our eyes, but didn’t see how those diamonds were pressured into being made.
Change How You Set Your Goals If You Want To Reach Them
So as I’m thinking about this while I’m out running, it starts to make total sense to me why it’s so easy for me to run 10 miles on a whim but sometimes can’t make it 1 mile intentionally.
Whenever I set out to do a specific distance, I set my goal with the end in mind, but I don’t consider all of the steps in between. I say to myself “I’m going to run for 10 miles”. And that makes sense, that is my goal, but probably what I should’ve said is, “I’m going to go running for 10 miles”.
While the difference is quite subtle, there is a difference.
In the first one, I’m declaring when I’m going to stop when my goal is reached.
But for the second one, I’m saying something a little bit different. I’m saying that this is what I am going to be doing until I reach my goal. In the second one, in the unintentional running scenario, I’m not really thinking about a specific distance or ending. I’m just going, and wherever I end is probably where I’m gonna end. In some cases that’s a mile, in some cases that’s more.
But, in these cases, I’m able to run much farther, faster, and with more ease. I have set out with not just the end in mind, but every step in between. I’m not looking at the top of the mountain, or the end of my run, I’m looking at everything in between, everything until I get there. I keep my head down with a vision of only a few steps in front of me at any given time. I’m not looking up to see how much further I’ve got to go. I’m just, going.
Use Your Past Failures To Ensure Your Future Successes
Which made me wonder, how many goals did I give up on in my life because I was too concentrated on the ending, and didn’t start out with the process in mind? How many opportunities did I give up on too early, because I wasn’t willing to climb? How many destinations in distance is that I never reach because I was too focused on the goal, and not focused enough on the process to get there?
I hope that the answer to those questions is very little, but I know that’s not the case.
I’ve lived long enough to know and can look back and can identify those opportunities that I missed or just simply abandon. And I don’t have regret about those, but I do use those to move me forward where I’m currently at. Those moments help me to identify how I’m feeling now and how to embark on new types of challenges and goals that I set for myself.
I’m no longer going to climb to the top of the mountain. Instead, I’m going to keep climbing until I reach the top of the mountain.
Rob is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. For the past 10 years, Rob has been navigating the health and fitness landscape to better himself and those around him, focusing on tools such as calorie and macro counting, intermittent fasting, and HIIT training techniques.