Just before Christmas I smashed my Strava running goal for 2016, with nine days still to go. Hurrah! And do I feel triumphant? Not at all. Because the voice in my head says that 500 miles is nothing anyway. And right there, I’m starting to recognise a pattern that keeps playing out in my life at the moment.
Missing or making that Strava goal was always going to be a close-run thing: the first half of the year was a write-off as far as mileage was concerned (I was too busy being increasingly pregnant then postnatally shell-shocked), so when I got round to setting a distance goal in June, I committed myself to six months of playing catch-up. And I made it! So why am I not delighted with that?
When it comes to setting goals, it seems that I’ve got stuck between a rock and a hard place. Because every goal I set myself – whether I meet it or miss it – quickly leads me to a sense of failure of one type or another:
If I set a goal and achieve it – for example, my 500 Strava miles for 2016, or my completion of the Mamores VK back in September (report here) – it very quickly begins to feel ridiculous. “That silly thing? It was nothing!” So after a moment’s delight, the deflation sets in: with hindsight, the goal looks too easy; it was always going to be straightforward; I should have aimed higher … and the thing I’ve achieved looks like nothing to be proud of anyway. My achievement becomes a sense of failure: a failure of ambition.
If I set a goal and don’t achieve it, well, of course there’s a sense of failure in that too. So what to do? The ability to celebrate success and forgive failure are two pretty vital ingredients for a happy life – or, indeed, for any kind of equilibrium at all – and I seem to have misplaced both. It’s pretty clear that this lose-lose mindset is no good: but just how difficult can it be to take the leap from recognising that truth, to embracing it and living it?
Just after writing this post, I came across these words and they held some resonance – it’s great advice, albeit easier said than done. If this resonates with you, too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.