Are your goals holding you back?

Goals can be too comfortable.

There. I said it. 

To be clear, just because a goal is comfortable doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, a comfortable goal may still be very challenging. For example, for a long time, qualifying for (and actually running) the Boston Marathon was a goal of mine. (I’ll spare you all rehashing the Boston saga, but you can read more about it here.) Is qualifying for the Boston Marathon “easy”? No. (At least, not for  us mere mortals). Was it a comfortable goal for me? Absolutely.

Focusing nearly exclusively on qualifying (and re-qualifying) for the Boston Marathon was an “easy” goal for me because it was a known entity. Was the act of actually running a qualifying time easy? Heck no. But the goal itself was something I was comfortable with. I knew how to train for a marathon. I knew how to run a marathon. I knew that I had already previously qualified for the Boston Marathon. I knew  exactly what I needed to do and I was completely in my comfort zone.

In some cases, exclusive focus on a  single goal is necessary and commendable.  Perseverance and persistence are qualities that I believe are imperative to accomplishing anything worthwhile. However, at some point it is important to ask yourself why you are focusing on what you are. Is your goal your goal because it’s truly a desire? Or is it simply a goal because it’s what you think you should be doing (or because it’s what everyone else is doing)?

My own longtime focus on running the Boston Marathon has held me back from growing in so many other ways (both athletically and personally). Focusing exclusively on running Boston meant I was constantly training to someone else’s standards (and not to my own potential). For every long run that I spent on the road, I was leaving other aspects of running unexplored (for example, trail running or ultra running). For every morning I spent adding “junk miles” to my total weekly mileage for the sheer sake of “keeping up with the Joneses” on Strava , I was failing to actually challenge myself to learn a new skill (for example, through weightlifting or CrossFit). It is easy to show up on the path to run with my friends. It is not so easy to show up somewhere where you have no idea what you are doing and silently praying that you don’t look too clueless.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running. It has been (and continues to be) a fundamental part of who I am. But I have come to realize how by maintaining such a myopic perspective has held me back. I have essentially held the same running goal year after year for no reason other than it was comfortable and it was something that I knew I could accomplish (heck, I already had). Something that I thought was a mark of my drive and perseverance was actually no more than an excuse to stick with what I knew and what was comfortable.

There is something liberating in just trying to learn new things. To start at the beginning and to establish a whole new set of goals. Pending getting my body back on board, my goals for 2018 will be completely different than years past. Some may seem small (actually be able to do a strict pull-up) and others may seem big (run an ultra marathon(?)), but I can assure you that they will all be outside of my comfort zone.

What goals have held your back? What are your new goals for 2018?