Friday, February 24, 2012

Finishing Strong

Here's the truth that's bombarded me lately: I suck at long-term goals.

I'm really good at setting goals three months at a time. I set new goals each year from January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. That's manageable for me, and I like charting progress over time, but only a short period of time.

Long-term goals, on the other hand, are my nemesis. I start out really well and full of energy, and then, somewhere in the middle, I lose sight of my purpose, get discouraged, and want to bail out. I've always known this about myself, but somehow I'm still surprised amidst long-term goal situations when I start muddling through. I have a bracelet that says, "Finish Strong," and that became my motto one summer during college. I know I need to finish strong, I tell myself to finish strong, and yet, the act of finishing strong isn't exactly made easier by either of those.

That's currently the state of my book. I'm so close to finishing it, but I lost sight of the goal somewhere over the last few months because it still seemed overwhelming and so incomplete. Never mind that I've been exponentially further along than when I started back in August; the goal still seemed too big. So I muddled through, discouraged, doubting my purpose, and wondering if I made a huge mistake in moving home. Despite all of that, in the back of my mind, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I was supposed to do this...and still am.

With all of this, I'm running a ½ marathon this weekend at Disney World. I'm running it in spite of the fact that my knees and I have a turbulent relationship, that my orthopedic doctor flat-out told me I was not built to run long distances, and that my journey has included passing out, physical therapy, and dropping loads of money on race fees, running shoes, and rehab.

My knees suck—my kneecaps don't track correctly, and that's not a fun feeling...especially when I literally can't bend them anymore. I get really frustrated because I've trained faithfully, but I've seen people whose training sucks and have done very little athletically before yet pick up the idea of running a ½ marathon and execute it without problems. That's more than a little irritating.

Sometimes when I'm running and, nine or ten miles in, I can't bend my knees, I've literally shouted, "Seriously, can't I just be exempt from this?!?" Who I'm shouting at is up for debate. It's probably half at my knees and half at God.... At those points, I'm thinking that I've already freaking had cancer, so don't I, like, get a pass on having atrocious knees? Haven't I kind of "served my time" with the whole "my-body-hates-me" thing?

Obviously I know the answers to those, and this race is not even that important in the grand scheme of things anyway, but it has come to be significantly symbolic in my life. I've realized that my frustrations in running that cause me to shout out how angry I am at the obstacles in my way are symptomatic of a bigger frustration. Underneath it all, I don't really need to run successfully; what I really need is to know that I can finish something I've started. I can plead with God to let me run without having issues, but I'm really pleading for a victory with a long-term goal, to finish what I've started.

Running has become strangely important for that purpose. I don't actually care that much about being a successful runner—I'm still a volleyball player through and through, and as I mentioned, I'm apparently not even built to run. But, I've been training for this since October when I paid for it—but even before that when I was running 5Ks, so I'm into my sixth month of training. That may be nothing for you, but for me, this task has now eclipsed my preferential short term goals.

All of this is to say that I'm really excited for my race this weekend. I need to finish it and know that I can complete a task I've so faithfully prepared for. I didn't skip a single run. When weather's been bad, when work has conflicted, and when I've been sick, I've rescheduled runs, but I have still faithfully completed 12+ weeks of specific training for this race. Everyone who's heard me talk about my race probably thinks, "Okay, Hannah, what's the big deal? I've run a ½ marathon. People do them all the time," and those statements are true. However, this IS a big deal to me.

Most of all, I need this race because it's coinciding with my struggles to complete my book. It's almost like if I can finish this well, I can finish my book. My only motivator in this has been myself. It's been pretty much a solitary process, and while that might sound like a bummer, it's actually not; I've needed to do this alone. I know community's important, but I've needed to know that I can see a goal, motivate myself to faithfully prepare for it, and complete it—not because my parents are making me, not because a doctor's telling me to, and not because school or work requires it—but simply because I want to and can.

I wanted to share this because I'm excited but also guessing many others struggle to finish strong. If you suck at long-term goals or if you, also, need a victory, I encourage you to find a hobby or task completely unrelated to the long-term goal you're struggling with. Work to complete that and remind yourself that you can and will finish strong.

Communication books explain that confidence is "knowing you have the ability to complete something successfully"—it's not even HAVING the ability to complete something successfully, but it's BELIEVING we can be successful. It's like those terrible singers who audition for American Idol—they're confident, not because they CAN sing well, but because they BELIEVE they can sing well.

Confidence for my run means knowing I can complete it successfully, and for that, I'm not nervous at all. That doesn't mean the elements won't intervene or my knees won't dislocate—heaven forbid I don't finish, but it could happen. Still, I'm confident because I know that I can now run my ½ marathon successfully. With my book, I've been lacking confidence. I could fail, no one could publish it, and even if someone does publish it, no one could read it. However, I'm realizing that those issues aren't causing my doubt. The issue is that I've apparently been in great need of a confidence boost to complete my book—to believe that I CAN finish this and finish it well—and running has helped show me that, though long-term goals aren't my forte, I can successfully tackle them.

So, wish me luck on Sunday as I run through Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and feel free to pray that the threat of rain goes away and that my knees are miraculously pain-free. And, whatever you're working on or dealing with, finish strong, friend.

1 comment:

Running.The.Race. said...

youre the best. seriously you are such an amazing model of transparent faith, its easy to blog when things are going well, but it takes humility and vulnerability to write it all out when you are discouraged, and that is why you are my best friendddddd! I miss you and can't wait to read this book because it is going to be AMAZING.