Do you have aspirations, hopes, or dreams? Have you ever worked towards something with the hopes of improvement? Have you ever dedicated hours to the pursuit of a goal and then missed the mark?
I thought so. We’ve all been there.
I wanted to touch on this subject because it’s certainly related to the over-arching goal of CreatingJoi and choosing life, health, and joy, but also because I was recently in this uncomfortable space.
A few weeks back, I excitedly traveled over to Panama City Beach to run a small but very well executed half marathon with a few of my favorite running buddies. We’ve had a terribly wet winter in this part of the world that began with this particular weekend. We were expecting thunderstorms, strong winds, and there was the potential threat of a cancelled race if Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.
My buddies had been training together for a several weeks. I, due to scheduling conflicts, can’t always run with the group, but I was doing my best to keep up with a regular routine to become a stronger, faster runner. We were implementing our speed work, we were killing our training runs, and we were all feeling pretty strong.
We’d stalked the forecast for several days hoping for some encouragement from the weather; it wasn’t happening. But crazy runners that we are, we went on a hope and a prayer that the roughest of the atmospheric conditions would hold off until after we were done. Our pleas were mostly answered.
Fast-forward to race day. There were a few ominous signs that things were not going my way.
Omen 1: PCB is an hour behind us. No, this isn’t a huge deal, but my body can be sensitive to the slightest shifts in routine. I’m not just a creature of habit out of a psychological need for control, but my body seems to be at its best on schedule.
Omen 2: I ate a breakfast I normally wouldn’t eat. I have a habit of running fasted. Even for longer runs, I rarely eat more than half a granola bar or so. This is mostly because I usually run pretty early in the mornings and I’m not yet ready for food. The extra hour plus the later start of the race meant there was a greater gap between my waking and running. I knew I couldn’t go out without anything at that point, but I was ill prepared for this important piece of the puzzle.
Omen 3: The weather was not looking good. Fortunately, the rain eventually slacked off, but the elements were still pretty rough. There was a mist and drizzle for a good portion of the race and we ended up running directly into and against strong winds for the entire back half of the race.
Omen 4: I was below par. Shortly before the race began, we went out for a few strides to warm up. Immediately, I could feel that my body was off. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel good. I had that grubby telltale feeling that it was not going to be a good run. Nonetheless, it was gameday and that meant no turning back. I’d shown up and there was nothing left to do but perform.
We lined up with our respective pacers and soon we were off. The rain had backed off to a mist and drizzle here and there and the wind was at our backs. I was hoping that I’d fall into my rhythm and that whatever agitation it was that my body was up against would soon wear off. But sure enough, by lap 4, my magic mile, I knew it wasn’t happening. What should have felt good, felt effortful. What should have felt comfortable, felt strained. And, then, we turned.
The race course was an out and back. So now that wind that was at our backs was front and center. And, my goodness, it was a force to be reckoned with. I knew there was no way I was keeping pace. I tried mantras and positive self-talk, I tried pushing through it, but I broke. I broke and I had to slow down. And, I was…devastated is too strong a word, but greatly disappointed feels inadequate.
Yes, I finished the race. Yes, I made a decent time. But it was not enough to get me the PR I wanted. I’d missed the mark and it didn’t feel good. But, my friends, what I really want you to know is:
1. Failure is a part of any process and, in contrast to popular belief, is not the opposite of success.
In retrospect there were certainly a few things I could’ve done differently to increase my chances of success. This includes better preparing nutrition wise and giving my body some practice for the subtle changes in time zones and start times. Missing the mark in this instance has given me insight into how I can strengthen my approach for subsequent racing. I’ve known for some time that I need to improve on my nutrition. Moving forward, I’m making the effort to do things differently.
2. When approached in a healthy manner, failure improves psychological flexibility.
Psychological flexibility measures, amongst other variables, how well we adapt and shift mental perspectives. When we perceive that we’ve failed it’s easy to get caught up in the emotional aspect of it. By all means, experience your feelings, but put a cap on it. If you must, allow yourself to wallow in self-pity for a certain amount of time, and then choose your course. Adopt a positive mindset and instead think about any good that came from your experiences. Focus on what can be learned and celebrate your growth.
3. Experiencing failure gives us the opportunity to practice unconditional self-love, compassion, and in some cases, forgiveness.
I tried my best. I am happy with that. I didn’t meet my goal. I’m unhappy with that, but I can appreciate the effort I gave. I am still a worthy individual and I’ll keep trying until I see change. Setbacks are a part of our success stories, and regardless of the course, you and I both are Divine creations with great value and purpose in the world.
Regardless of where you are in your goal setting right now, I hope these thoughts are encouraging to you. Perhaps you’ve set out to be more intentional, to eat more consciously, or become more active and overtime you’ve lost your way a bit. My message to you is keep moving forward. Do not allow setbacks to derail your dreams. If you persist, plan, and execute, it will come.
Can you join me in embracing failure? Can you join me in making the effort to step outside of strong emotion and continue making choices that align with the big picture? And, finally, can you join me in remembering that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment?
Life is a journey, enjoy the process and don’t miss the lesson to be leaned.
Peace and blessings,
Note: Running and racing are highly personal and the perception of a “good” run varies from individual to individual. I am not in any capacity minimizing the efforts of less experienced runners, or glorifying the elites. We are all in different places and successes and failures are generally based on subjective experiences. Your race, your pace!