Neuroscience has shown that the repetitive motions and complex cognitive functions of running can trigger neurotransmitters, chemicals that boost the brain’s connectivity, thought patterns and decision-making—human qualities that are often compromised by the stress of life, especially in these troubled political times. Meanwhile, spiritual traditions remind us that turning our attention outward, from self-concern to the welfare of others, is the key to peace, love, and sanity.
“Wisdom is the ability to figure out what to do while simultaneously knowing what is worth doing.” – Eric Greitens (Navy Seal/Author)
Temporal milestones like New Year’s Day often serve to make us more introspective and inspire us to review our life progress and to decide how to proceed. But experts suggest that folks are more likely to persevere and prosper if they launch goals at a time that is personally meaningful to them
Selecting a time that you regard as a significant personal transition point can help you feel more connected to your goals. Birthdays ending in nine are a popular choice because you’re approaching the milestone of a new decade. For example, one study found significantly more people sign up for a marathon when they are age 39 or 49 than 40 or 50.
An anniversary commemorating the birth or death of a loved one can also be a good choice. I prefer to steer clear of the New Year’s hype by waiting a few weeks until Martin Luther King Day, which often coincides with my wife’s birthday. For me, this has become a worthy occasion to renew my commitment to a healthy lifestyle and to set realistic competitive goals for the year.
To Strive in Common
A healthy attitude toward competition can be one of your most powerful allies in increasing your performance, enjoyment level, and overall satisfaction throughout life. I love the fact that the word “compete” is derived from the Latin competere, “to strive in common.” In other words, the best way to find out how good your skills are is to match them against the skills of other people of similar ability.
Remember, hope is not a strategy. You need specific goals and targets to aim for. Motivational suggestions like “Do your best!” or “Give it 100%!” are just too vague to be of much use. Points of focus, strengthening techniques, and realistic running speeds/distances set just above your current skill level provide a clear focus and direction to your running. Task-oriented goals like these are the building blocks of motivation, and learning to set the right goals helps you extend your personal limits and increase your enjoyment immensely.
What about you?
What about your running would you like to improve? The Japanese productivity principle of kaizen, also known as “continuous improvement,” can be a useful model for runners. It points to a gentle, gradual, long-term approach to personal goals that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in order to improve efficiency and quality. Setting goals prevents you from stagnating. How realistic are the specific running goals you’ve set for yourself? Are you too loose, too tight, or just right in your approach to the challenges you are facing?