The journey that never ends…

About fifteen years ago, I completed a marathon.  (I really can’t believe it’s been that long ago!). The race and the training leading up to it were an experience full of lessons that could be applied to every facet of my life.  One lesson in particular has stayed with me through all this time.

On race day, I was so excited to run, reach the finish line, and accomplish my goal!  I had not studied the map, so I wasn’t exactly sure where the finish was, but I knew when it was getting close. 

The crowd was getting thicker and started encouraging the runners by saying “one more corner”.  Full of enthusiasm to finish strong and relaxation realizing I was almost done, I picked up my pace and put a little bounce in my blistered step. I turned the corner excited and expecting to see the finish line…but it wasn’t there.  As far as l could see, all I saw was a block of people cheering me on, still shouting “one more corner”. 

I know they meant well…that they were trying to be encouraging, but after two false ‘corners’, I was starting to give up hope that I would ever reach the finish line. I remember how heavy those steps in the last blocks were. My blisters were more sore, my legs were wobbly and tired, and all I could focus on was that I knew I had to keep going.

It turned out that the finish line was three corners after the first time I heard “one more corner”!  I was so disappointed and burned out by the time I made the final finish. The misperception of the finish line made the last half mile of my race extra long and difficult. The unrealistic expectation…the opinion of others…the false promises…all of the things I was holding onto, made my journey more difficult, more painful, and more complicated.

This isn’t the first, or only time that this has happened. In both my personal and professional life there are times that I am working hard and moving forward. I get so close to a goal only to have a new challenge thrown in my path, or to set up an unrealistic expectation.  Sometimes, I feel like I’ve finally developed a skill I needed only to have my job change and require a new skill set. 

Thankfully, over time, I have learned to change my perspective.  Instead of being disappointed with a moving target, or being focused on the finish line, I have decided to start focusing on the path that gets me there. I have realized that the journey is mine, and I can influence how I travel through it and how I set expectations and outcomes for myself.

Now, while I am still hoping to reach the finish line, I don’t get discouraged when roadblocks surprise me.  I have my sights set on where I want to go, and I’m enjoying the scenic route when necessary.

I absolutely believe goals should exist, that we should strive to achieve them, and that we should celebrate them when achieved.  I also believe if I set stretch goals, like I do, I have to be satisfied when I reach them in a slower time frame or when I get close but not quite there.  And so, I need to enjoy the journey, what I’ve learned, and try again…celebrating when I finally make it.

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