So walk down any magazine aisle or stand in the checkout line at the grocery at about this time of year, every year, and every single print publication (minus maybe the Enquirer) on the shelf says the same thing…”NEW YEAR NEW YOU!!!”
Runners World has seriously had that as their December issue every year for the last decade, I swear.
Without intending to sound cynical, it may be a “new” year, but you’re still the same you; sorry. It’s not as though we’re like a bunch of little caterpillars emerging from their cocoons as pretty new creatures just because the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve, I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but you kind of still are where you’re at. Nonetheless, I think something in our human psyche likes the idea of a clean slate and a new starting point and maybe even a Do-Over on some things, even though there are no real Do-Overs, there are only Try-Again-And-Do-Betters.
Try-Again-And-Do-Betters…I like the sound of that. So that said, I’ll play along. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a good, solid, healthy session of SELF-REFLECTION and GOAL SETTING is there? YEAH! Virtual fist-bump via this blog! Let’s get on it! And what better time to do it than teetering on the edge of a year, which had its awesome, its great, good, bad, and ugly. Such is life.
I actually only have one goal, or resolution, or whatever you want to call it. And I guess it’s applicable to both Running and Life, but since this blog is about running, we’ll stick to that to keep things relatively concise and uncomplicated. Anyway…see, I’ve got this little problematic mindset called Nothing’s Ever Enough, and I think it would be a good thing to be shut of. I think most of the entire Western culture is affected in one way or another by this rather unsavory and icky ailment since we live in a world of constant competition in everything and constant comparison to everyone else and constant need for instant gratification and constant want for more, be it through materialism or kind of whatever, it’s just how we’ve managed set things up; always trying to keep up with the Joneses. And for what? Affirmation? I guess so.
Anyhow, while that’s applicable to many things in this life, as far as running goes, I think it’s safe to say that we’re mostly competitive people here to some extent. And it’s great to be competitive, and it’s great to let the accomplishments of other people set the bar for us to some degree. After all, if you always only set your own standard and “good enough” is always fine, then you never have any need to rise above it, and you never get any better. But taken too far, too much competitive drive and close examination of everyone else’s accomplishments to the point of never-ending comparison to everyone else doesn’t so much drive the desire to get better as much as it does flatten it altogether. Because ever notice that no matter how much you do and no matter how well you do it, there will always be someone who seems to be doing more, and doing it better? Always. And that is when this icky downward spiral into Nothing’s Ever Enough happens.
Hold on a sec while I digress a little bit. So there is this woman, Lize Britten, she lives in Boulder now and was, at one time, one of the greatest runners in the nation in her younger days. Anyway, for many reasons her brilliant running career came crashing down, and now, many years after, she’s a writer. She once wrote a post on her blog about how she was considering quitting the writing profession altogether, because she knew she’d never be a Steinbeck or a Dickens or a Hemmingway or any of those other people who are considered to be “the best,” and everything she wrote would pale in comparison to that stuff, so what was even the point in doing it at all? At the time I thought that was such a sad way to look at something that you love to do and are good at doing even though you’re not necessarily what the rest of the world deems to be “the best.”
Then I realized I do that very thing ALL the time, I mean ALL THE TIME. I’ll be all excited because I hit some certain number of miles in a week that to me indicates that things are really going well, only to hear about someone doing twice that. Or I’ll run a PR, but maybe it’s not even within 90+ seconds of what people I know are doing. Or I’ll have some workout or race that, for me, is great, and I should be happy with it, and I am, till I realize that’s someone else’s worst day. And it’s this endless cycle of comparing, and needing to control the uncontrollable, and being constantly reminded of where you are versus where “The Best” are, and of your best never being quite “enough”, when really, you ought to just be satisfied and thankful with what you just did, and the fact that you can do it at all, and that you’ve still got somewhere to go from here and that you’re actually capable of doing so. But instead you’re wondering whether you should hang them up because you’re not “the best” and because Nothing’s Ever Enough. But at the end of the day, would you be hanging them up because you really want to, or because you felt that you “failed” to measure up to…uh…someone’s–actually I’m not even really sure whose–standard(s)?
All this is to say, I haven’t entirely figured out how to quash this often self-sabatoging attitude, in running or any other area of life. It’s a constant work in progress with no actual end in sight. Maybe use other people’s accomplishments as a standard to strive for rather than a mandatory bar to be reached (even though sooner or later someone will always move the bar just a little bit higher)? Maybe close off from hearing about what everyone else is doing altogether, which is hard because none of us lives in a vacuum. Ultimately though, competition is a wonderful and valuable thing, but only if you use it as a means of avoiding complacency rather than a destructive means of self-comparison. So while I’m not really all that into painting ooey-gooey verbal pictures of sparkly unicorns that poop Skittles and whatnot, I think this little quote sums it all up really well and that everyone, whenever you go about doing whatever it is that you do, ought to keep in mind: