January 8, 2012

Goal! (Or Not?)

I have written here before that I am a perfectionist. One way this shows up is that I am continually asking myself questions like:

  • Can I do that better?
  • What’s the next level/step?
  • How do I progress or move forward?

I can sometimes get a little obsessed with reaching one goal and then trying to find a way to get to the next via the shortest path.

This has been a great thing in my career. I work hard, get things done and never hesitate to tackle the next thing that needs my attention. I will tend towards producing better and better work over time because  I am constantly comparing what I do today to what I did yesterday or last week or last year – and I want to see that I have somehow progressed.

But the older I get, the more I recognize that this strategy doesn’t work for everything – and in some cases it may actually hinder my results or at least keep me from enjoying the journey.The last couple of days of running have been pretty hard. I started the New Year with a lot of energy and felt like maybe I could set some big goals…maybe I could run a race…maybe I could really reduce my time per mile…maybe…maybe… Then I hurt myself (still have not quite sorted out what I did), but for a week now my left hip and thigh have been hurting on and off to varying degrees. It’s sort of nagging now. During my runs yesterday and today I could feel it like an annoying tightening cramp that distracted my mind and slowed my pace. After I ran today, I was stretching and listening the chatter in my head – it was all these frustrating thoughts about slowed progress and not being able to reach my goals…

What? When did I set any kind of running goal other than just sticking it out for a year? But then I realized that in an unspoken, unwritten way I had been goal setting all along – trying to go a little faster, a little farther, a little more something day by day, week by week.

So today, I am taking a deep breath and trying to regroup my thoughts.

I have had a lot of conversations lately with people about whether or not I like running, and whether this is even important. A lot of people who run, don’t just enjoy it, they get a sort of meditative bliss out of it. One of my unspoken goals has been to see if I could locate this feeling for myself (more ways to experience bliss seems like a good thing, right?)

But right now I am asking a more fundamental question – do I have to have any goal at all? Do I need to have anything I am aiming for or striving for or trying to best – or can I just be and do? Could I – can anyone – stay the course if I don’t have a goal I am running towards?

What moves us forward if we are not reaching out for the next thing?

A good traveler has no fixed plans,
and is not intent on arriving.
– Lao Tzu

Goal-setting, I realize, is so automatic for me, that even when I don’t think I am doing it I am.  What if I even gave up my “timeline” of a year and just took each day as a unique event asking only “do I run today or not?” Would I perhaps enjoy the journey more – would I be a better runner, a happier runner, a happier person – if I could just let go of  the need to make progress and appreciate the day-to-day experience of where I am and who I am in my relationship to running? Do we need goals to be happy and successful – is is even possible that while in many areas goal contribute to progress, that sometimes they hinder it?

Can I let go of my goals and still reach my dreams?

I may have to sleep on that!

Hope you are enjoying a beautiful Sunday wherever you are.



Leave a comment
  1. Gillian
    January 11, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    You can also have smaller goals, such as simply getting it done. I do weights and have FM. I simply have satisfaction from the fact that I get to the gym several times a week and have made progress. It’s easier for me than jogging. I only look at the progress occasionally, perhaps every few months when I notice that I’m moving a heavier weight in some exercise. I also know that keeping at it is better for my FM and keeps me from needing the chiro too often. I do not want to hurt myself. I’m pleased with myself that I’m probably stronger than the average woman of my age (pure conceit). As for my jogging, let’s say that I’m pushing harder on the treadmill, but the jogging will come later.
    Power on!

    • Jacqueline Jacques
      January 11, 2012 at 5:40 am #

      I think anytime we can take pride in our own accomplishments, we are definitely on the right track. Thanks for sharing!