The process is the goal

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point running fast became important to me. Preparing for a race started with a specific time goal and a plan to achieve it. My approach to life isn’t that much different. What is deeply unsettling with my goal-based approach is that success is always in the future, and never now. Goals and their outcomes tend to become part of my identity. In this framework, failure is existential rather than just a learning experience.

I’m not knocking long-term planning, and I’m certainly not against racing. What I am saying is that attitude and perspective are important when planning and training for a big goal. Bad outcomes happen no matter how much deliberation goes into avoiding them. Failure can therefore be a learning opportunity, or trigger harmful self-criticism.

Re-learning to run has reminded me to be more involved in the process, and less concerned with goals. The process is in the present, where there is no regret about the past, or anxiety about the future. I ran another 5.5k barefoot today and I was deeply involved in the process. I stepped on a pebble every time my mind drifted, which instantly transported me back to now.

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life, Commander Chris Hadfield eloquently discusses how enjoying the process is hugely important to him. Commander Hadfield had all these amazing experiences as a fighter pilot, test pilot and finally as an astronaut. But imagine if his only goal in life was to fly on a shuttle mission and that he didn’t make it? So when I feel it is time to race, I will be more involved in the day-to-day process and less concerned about the end goal. I think that’s also a good approach to life.

Here are a few links that helped me get more involved in the process of running.

1. I am using the 100-Up technique to train my body and brain to run differently.

2. Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis, two of Canada’s best marathoners put together this little training video. I like it because Eric and Reid clearly explain the purpose of each drill.





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