Goals, Habits, Systems And Identity
I always wanted to be a runner. I’m not sure why. I guess to me, runners had something I lacked… discipline, endurance, patience, mental toughness…even a hint of crazy. I’ve read many articles and books that link running with personal growth, entrepreneurship, and even success. And now, I totally get why it was out of my reach.
I’ve always struggled with running – I could barely run a mile without being completely out of breath and energy. I honestly thought something was physically wrong with me since a lot of my friends were able to quickly and easily build up the endurance to start competing in marathons. This was such a faraway dream for me – I never thought I’d ever one day run a marathon. 26.2 miles, are you kidding me?
During one of the toughest and most challenging years of my life and career (I’ll tell you all about it someday), I decided to get out of my own slump by setting a goal to train for and run a full marathon. My thought at the time was: if I could run a marathon, I could do anything. And I needed to believe that about myself. Fast forward six months, I ran across the finish line on mile 26.2, with my hands up in the air and tears streaming down my face. I did it. I set my goal, worked at it, and achieved it. End of story.
Well, not really. Although I accomplished something I thought I’d never attain in my lifetime, when someone asked me if I would do it again, I said no. In fact, I still didn’t enjoy running. I didn’t see myself as a runner. The picture that I had in my mind of a runner certainly wasn’t me. I really didn’t understand why I felt that way…UNTIL I read the book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. He helped me make sense of my running journey and added vocabulary to what I was going through. So, I thought it would be fun to share it with you.
The book starts off with a surprising suggestion: “Forget about setting goals.” What? Yup, that’s right…his whole argument is, “There’s a better way.”
“When we start thinking about the outcome we want to achieve, we think about setting goals. But setting and achieving a goal is only a momentary change. You want to instead think about setting a system. A system is a collection of habits, processes and behaviors. If you focus and dedicate your time and effort to developing and following your system, you’ll become the person that you want to be. Which is more important than reaching your goal.”
A couple of years after the marathon, without even knowing, I had created a simple system of habits and processes that I followed week after week, year after year. I am proud to say that I now identify myself as a runner. I truly enjoy running and it’s a huge part of my daily habit. In the last year alone, I was able to log over 1500 miles. That’s almost 29 miles every seven days – a marathon a week.
We set goals because we want better outcomes, but ironically, we are much more likely to reach those outcomes by not thinking about our goals and pouring our energy into bettering our system.
As we prepare to close out 2021 and start a fresh new year, I would love to dedicate some time to discuss what I’ve studied about creating habits and systems. Let’s learn together and implement some new habits for an awesome year ahead, where we actually accomplish those things we thought might never be possible.
So excited to keep this conversation going over the next few weeks.
You with me? Let’s go!