You might have noticed that I haven’t posted my goal for the month of August goal yet. I’m not giving up on having a different goal each month this year, but this month I’ve had quite a few setbacks.
Going into the start of the month, I was feeling really inspired by the Mammoth Running Escape (more recaps still to come), and was really excited for my August goal: to focus all my efforts on PRing in the 5K. I wanted to run more, run faster, eat better, and get more sleep – so basically, multiple goals in one. However, on the last day of the retreat, I took a nasty fall while trail running; when my leg subsequently got infected, I wasn’t allowed to work out until it healed (a week). At that point, I lost a lot of faith in my 5K PR goal. One month to a PR is really aggressive anyway, and taking 25% of that time away wasn’t going to help.
Last week, my leg finally healed enough to where I could work out again. However, I made the mistake of running my first few workouts in some older shoes that I hadn’t realized were pretty much dead. (Or at least, I’d like to think it was the shoes and not just the difficulty of the workouts.) As a result of that boneheaded move, I’ve had some soreness in my calves that seems like the beginning of shinsplints, and it’s really curtailed my workouts for the week :(
Even with all the setbacks, I’m not ready to give up yet. At this point, I think I am just going to extend my goal’s timeframe a bit. Rather than my usual one month goal, I’m setting a six week goal: to PR in the 5K by the end of September. Which is probably much more reasonable anyhow!
I’ve definitely been in a bit of a funk these first few weeks of August, what with working long hours and then all these dumb minor injuries making me not enjoy my leisure time as much as usual, either. But I realized that what’s been bumming me out most is the simple fact that I don’t have a goal that I’m working toward achieving.
Having a short-term goal makes me feel like I have purpose and direction in my daily activities, and it gives me something to focus on even when I’m caught up in the quotidian day to day. I recently watched this excellent TED talk by Matt Cutts on why you should try something new for 30 days, and although it’s only three minutes long, that was long enough to remind me of what I was missing.
To drive the point home a little bit more, my own church shared a lesson this weekend that relates. In talking about the Olympics and how so many amazing athletes put everything they have into their dreams of winning a medal, the pastor reminded us: “At the end of the day, gold medals still collect dust.” Having just spent all morning watching the excitement of the women’s Olympic marathon, and seeing how much it meant to those competitors, this quote really struck me as worth thinking about.
No matter what goal you’re working toward, it’s not going to give you satisfaction forever – you have to always strive to reach something better. The whole notion of hedonic adaptation says that no matter what level of success you reach, you’re always going to want more. So rather than fight the treadmill, I think it’s better to embrace it: by chasing new experiences through ever changing goals.
Many people whom I really respect espouse the value of “enough”. I think the lesson of “enough” is an important one to master, so that you’re not continually running the rat race and struggling to go nowhere. But I also think there is value in never settling and always trying to improve yourself in some area of your life.
If you chase the same goal continuously, you will get burned out in trying to maximize your success in one area. (And, one might argue, you probably don’t need to be that successful anyway – go after the 80% you can achieve efficiently rather than the final 20% that takes years.) However, there’s great value in striving for continuous improvement across all the various dimensions of your life, one at a time.
With my goals this year, I’ve shifted from changing how I talk, to changing how I eat, to changing how I work – encompassing a lot of different dimensions in my life, even as they’re mostly pretty holistic. That variety in goal setting has helped me avoid burnout (like when I got sick of my first big 50by25 goal partway through). The new goals I’m always experimenting with and seeking to achieve help me feel like life is fresh and exciting, even as a lot of my life routines stay the same.
I am definitely in need of a fresh goal to shake things up, and so I’m really looking forward to resuming 5K training… even if I’m a few weeks behind schedule. Gold medals might gather dust (and I’m guessing that whatever goal race I pick won’t offer gold medals anyway), but the experience of striving for that gold is what makes life great. I’m excited to keep you all posted how it goes!