Moving Targets

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-by Matt Leedham

In 2004, I ran my first marathon. I trained for 5 months, running 5-6 days per week. At my peak training period, I would run 35-45 miles in a week. I really began to enjoy running. I had all the best gear, would meet up with other fellow running junkies, would stay in on Friday nights and be up at 5am on Saturdays to prep for my long runs. I loved running.

On Halloween 2004, I had one of the best experiences of my life. Running that marathon was an incredible learning opportunity. It was my first race and I just remember how awesome the energy was. Everyone was so excited to run and so was I. I had friends there to cheer me on, strangers shouting my name (which was proudly written on my shirt), and people to celebrate with afterward. Then a funny thing happened the next day…

I stopped running.

Literally, I just stopped. I didn’t run again for over a year. Given how into running I was, I look back on it and can’t believe that I stopped. I was disappointed in myself, but never really took the time to examine why that happened.

Years later, I learned that it is quite common for rookie endurance athletes to go on a hiatus because they make one huge mistake. First-timers get so geared up for the race, and train so hard for completing their first marathon (or half-marathon, or triathlon or whatever) that they view it as the finish line, as if it’s the end somehow. They often make no plans for the future – for what will happen after the race. In a running magazine, I read that it’s helpful for a runner to pick their next race while they’re still training for the first one.

So that’s what I did.

Not just with running, which I eventually picked back up and completed my 2nd marathon in 2010, but with other goals in my life. I would try to pick goals that required about 3-4 months of time and staggered them so that I was constantly striving toward achieving the next big thing.

It worked great! I started to achieve a lot in my career and personal life. I was officially an “achiever!” An over-achiever, some might argue.

Surprisingly though, true happiness eluded me.

In fact, just last night I was speaking with a fellow coach about how my daily routine for the morning has gotten disrupted and I don’t feel as “tuned in” to what I’m doing each day. I began to formulate a plan to create my next 4-month goal so that I can get “back in the game,” get motivated and energized, and go achieve something!

My colleague asked me a simple question. “To what end?”

“What do you mean to what end?” I asked, confused. “To achieve more!”

He replied with calm curiosity, “But why?”

I suddenly didn’t have a great answer. He said, “It sounds like you just want to stick your finger in the socket and get juiced up again, which is understandable because it’s exciting to do and achieve something new.”

He had my attention now, and finished with, “The problem comes when we keep looking 4 months ahead toward the next ‘thing’ we want to accomplish, we forget one very important piece of the puzzle. We forget how we’re living now.

Actually, the real problem (for me) is surrounding myself with very intelligent and insightful people that call me out on this stuff. Shoot! He was right and I knew it.

In fact, his reminder to me sounded very similar to something I read and wrote about a few months ago, The Happiness Advantage. In his book, and based on his research, author Shawn Achor concludes that most people believe that if they can just achieve that next goal (weight loss, a promotion, buying a house, etc.), that then they will be happy. But once we achieve that goal, our milestones for success get pushed further and further back. We end up chasing happiness because we believe it to be just around the corner.

So, you may be thinking (much like I was last night), that I need to take corrective action. I need to stop spinning my wheels and stop chasing moving targets. I need to focus on my life right now, in this moment. But how?

Luckily, I’ve already written about this. If you want to know what to do next, simply click here!

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