Monday, February 01, 2010

Setting the Bar Beyond Your Grasp

How high are your expectations? Of yourself? Your friends? Your family? If you set up goals for yourself that you know you will not reach, is it less of a failure? It's a great idea, when you think about it. If I am never really fully vested in a goal in the first place, perhaps because I knew it was unrealistic to expect success in it, how can I possibly blame myself for not reaching it? For me, my unrealistic goal (the main one, as I have numerous pseudo goals), has always been associated with running. When I first started running after leaving Israel, I loved it. I loved the fact that despite being a little overweight, I could still experience the physical high of athletic movement. My very first goal was not to complete a mile, since I was still not there yet. It was not to run a 10 minute mile, since I was still only capable of 11 minute miles. It was not to lose weight, or even enter a local 5k race. My first goal back then was to be the fastest woman in the world. I wanted to be accountable for this goal too, so I went public. My sister published a school yearbook for inhabitants of Woodstock, NY. Under my 2x2 photo was my life's ambition: To be the first woman to break 30 minutes in the 10k. Now over 10,000 people would know that I was serious. How serious is it to run a 30 minute 10k? Well, it means that you have to run a mile in less than 5 minutes. And then do six of them back to back, and then kick a little more until it's all over. Several Olympics have passed since that goal, and I still have yet to break 40 minutes for a 10k, let alone 30 minutes. But this goal has served me well. It has ensured that I will dedicate myself to the sport, and strive to get the maximum gains that my body is capable of in any given day. It has required a fierce dedication and passion, that has yielded great improvements in my athletic abilities. But it would have been just as easy on that first day on the track in Berkeley, for me to say, 'I am no good at this, I'm too fat, and I feel like I'm going to pass out. Running is not for me.' What is the deciding factor between quitting and persevering? I don't have the answer to that question, but I think it is more important to look at the act of motion. We often engage our brains so much that we rationalize getting out and doing anything at all. Don't think. Just move. Do it. Move it. Live it.
Prenatal brain development shows us that we might be doomed if our parents didn't love us enough. Or neglected us, or abused us. What happens is, the connections in our brains are developing for only experiences that are present. If nurturing is absent, we don't have any response to it when it appears in later life. What does this have to do with unrealistic goals? A lot. If your brain is in survivor mode, it needs to set up 'feel good' situations for its host (you). There's a great comfort in setting yourself the task of becoming the next American Idol, because you likely are older than 28 and can't sing very well (in others' opinions), thus the disappointment of not being able to fulfill this goal can be easily justified. But sometimes you really do want certain goals, and despite being presented with multiple barriers to obtaining them, you somehow find the strength to continue pursuing them. When these barriers are internal, the pursuit can be trickier. And to trick a trickster, you have to implement the element of surprise. Don't let your brain be a bully and dictate what you can and can't achieve. You know what you want. Don't let some faulty wiring come between you and your dreams.

10 comments:

paz13 said...

Tamar: For you, the goal of a 30 minute 10K has kept you focused and on track (no pun intended) and it has worked.

I'm not quite as goal oriented toward time, but try to run to the best of my ability on any given day and I'm able to get good workouts in to stay in shape. As you get older and have injuries, staying and remaining healthy is a blessing.

Enjoyed your post and following your racing pursuits.

Kevin

tamar said...

kevin~ well, I admit, after the first few years of running, I did moderate that goal a little :-)
I agree, remaining healthy is a huge blessing.

Clement.hak@gmail.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clement said...

off topic...
I'm sorry I disappeared, one day we'll meet, I know it.

miss you,

Clement

Mike said...

For guidance with my new running interest, my girlfriend in 1982 gave me "The Official Book of Running," and predicted it would help me "win the Boston Marathon in well under 2 hours." Realistic? Back then I didn't know, but soon after I entered my first race to begin the process of finding out!

tamar said...

mike~ that's hysterical! You never told me that, that reminds me so much of my thinking when I first started running

Mike said...

AND it served as inspiration for a short story on my very first rate. I wrote it for Bob's new web site a few years back. Unfortunately, something happened to upset him, he never opened his web site, my short story got lost in the ether and I didn't have a copy...;-((

But it was a good short story!!

Mike said...

rate s/b race

tamar said...

mike~ we'll recoup it, fear not!

Mike said...

If we could that would be magical...like travelling back in time to the moment my story became lost, apparently, forever.