How running taught me that goals can be bad

In 2004, I struggled through my first 5K.

In 2005, I ran my first 10K.

In 2008, I finished my first half-marathon.

In 2012, I hurt my hip.

Actually, it was hurting all along, I just didn't know it. The doc said my hips are crooked and tilted forward, and the prescription was a lot of PT. Oh, and I wouldn't likely be able to run long distances again.


I finally fell madly in love with this running thing, only to discover that the bastard was having a secret affair with my hip the whole time. I was pretty torn up inside; It was as if I was going through a real breakup. 

But like any good breakup, I learned from it.


I learned I loved running for the wrong reasons

Sure, I enjoyed running on pretty trails and I experienced the occasional runner's high. I'm not saying I never enjoyed running. But for me, the most satisfying part of running was finishing that next race, and that goal consumed my thoughts as I was training. At the time my schedule was already overloaded; Running was just another thing on the to-do list and it added stress to my mind and body.

Goals are wonderful, but they aren't enough for me anymore. I have to enjoy the process, or it's not worth my time. This translates to other areas of my life.


I realized nobody cares about your "success"

I've always looked forward to that next goal -- the next badge to adorn my life's Girl Scout sash. But I realized the only person who cared about those badges was me, and that stupid sash was causing more stress than bliss. 

Eff the sash. I don't need all those badges.

The only badge I need is my happiness. And the funny thing is, that's the only badge people really notice anyway. You know those people who just seem to "glow"? They don't seem to stress about much and they almost always have a smile on their face. You know them, because you notice them. They're not worried about badges, they're just happy. Meanwhile Miss Girl Scout of the Year probably hasn't caught your attention and if she has, you probably thought she was uptight.


I began to understand the importance of Quality > Quantity

You've heard this cardinal rule before. For years, I was going for quantity. I wanted to be the best at everything. What ended up happening is that I was pretty good at a lot of things, but not the best at any one thing. And I was tired. Exhausted, actually, with little to show for my non-stop work ethic. I had to take a hard look at everything I was pursuing and question whether or not it was worth my time.

Why do I want to do this? Is this for myself, for others, or to benefit how others perceive me?

Will this goal make me happy? Does the process of getting there make me happy? 

Once I narrowed my goals, I had to learn to STOP. This was and is hard for me. I'm a "yes" girl. But I'm learning to follow the happy, and I have some internal exercises I do to get me there.

Will this help me achieve one of my goals?

Is this the most important thing to be doing with my time right now to achieve one of those goals?

Is this what I want to be doing right now?

(Side note: I read a great book about narrowing your efforts if you need to learn to say "no." It's called "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeon.)


I'm running again, but it's different

I took a lot of necessary time off from running. My body demanded it, and what I realize now is that my mind demanded it, too. I've been focusing more on yoga, which has drastically helped my hip and I recently started running again (in fact, I'm running a half marathon tomorrow!).

This time, it's different. 

I have more time on my schedule to fit training in, and I'm enjoying the runs. I even skip training runs sometimes if I feel that something else is more important, like hanging out with my husband or taking my dog on a walk. And I'm not doing it just to achieve the goal of crossing the finish line and adding a badge to my sash. I'm doing it because after reevaluating everything I was putting on my plate (all-you-can-eat buffet style), I realized that I missed running and that I enjoy going on long, slow jogs on the trail to clear my mind and connect with nature.


Oh yeah, and my hip

is a lot better now. Focusing on yoga has really helped my hip (hip-hip-hooray for hip openers!) and I haven't had any major hip issues during this training. *Knocks on wood*

Hurting my hip certainly wasn't fun, but I'm a firm believer that your body tells you things when your mind won't listen. In this case, my body was telling me to back the eff off. CHILL OUT, CARA. 

So I'm listening. I'm chilling. I have a healthy relationship with my lover, running, and I burned that stupid Girl Scout sash. 

And most of all, I'm following the happy.