Like many young endurance athletes, I aspire to be competitive to the point that I can actually win races. In my mind, I feel like as soon as I can get to that point, I will have become a “real” competitive runner instead of this sub-par one that I am at the moment.
I’ll give you a concrete example of what has gone through my mind:
When I was in secondary four, I was persuaded to join the cross-country team for my school. We weren’t very good, but I quickly found traction within the sport, winning nearly every race I was in during the next two years. It was almost too easy to win. (I’m not bragging here. In fact, I won mostly because the whole lot of us weren’t very fast.)
However, there was one runner who kept up with me, but he was a year younger than I. At that age, a year makes a big difference, and so I usually beat him at every race (except my last one and my first one). We were friends though, and always enjoyed racing each other.
Fast forward to now, a few years later, and he’s one of the top cross-country runners in the country, while I finished 17th in our provincial championships. A lot has changed over those years. It was like we met at a crossroads, and he continued improving while I sort of plateaued. Back then, we were basically just as fast as one another, running a mere 18:00 for 5K.
This year, he posted a 15:0x, while I was injured.
This story is just to show you how things change. I was supposed to be focused on improving, but for some reason or another, I wasn’t able to hit that same improvement curve as he did. And now, I find myself far behind.
But this is the crux of the post: it’s just that, a journey. He is definitely way in front of me in terms of improvement and progress, but the thing I have to remind myself is that I am still a runner. Just because I haven’t been doing so well lately does not mean I won’t do well ever. By choosing to show up, day after day, I’m aligning myself with the best possible chance to improve and achieve my goals.
Think about it: is it likely that someone will make the Olympics? Of course not. But is it more likely for them to make the Olympics if they train day in and day out like an Olympian? I think you get my point.
The most important realization I have made in the last few months is that the journey is the only thing we can guarantee. You can’t guarantee results. No one can. But if you accept that the closest thing to results is to do the thing itself and set yourself upon that journey, you can at least guarantee that.
As one of my favourite writers Shawn Blanc always says (paraphrased): What is the one thing that you can do today that will move the needle forward in your goals?
It’s not always easy to see, but the thing we get to choose to do every day is if we want to show up and put the hard work in. I want to become a better athlete and a better runner. The only way I’ll be able to do that is to do a small thing every day that pushes me towards that goal.
Remember, goals aren’t made in one sweeping step. They’re a result of small momentum vectors pointing in the same direction.
That’s a crucial point. While you need to do something every day to help you achieve your big goals, the challenge is to make them point in the same direction. If these daily momentum vectors point a little off course, you’re losing a bit of that full magnitude of momentum each day. It won’t be much (and you’re still going in the rough direction of your goals), but you’re being inefficient. Just as running economy is important to running faster, momentum economy is important while working towards your goals.
If you want to achieve something big, you should find some way in which you can work towards that goal, every single day. In addition to that, you need to make sure you’re always focused on that goal. If you aren’t careful, your attention can become displaced, pulling your momentum vector towards places you don’t want to go. But if you can keep it focused on one destination for a long period of time, it becomes much more effective.
When you can align that momentum vector to keep you on track with your goal, you can achieve much more than what you probably thought.