Thursday, October 21, 2010

The WHYs

I have a friend who trained for and finished a half marathon. Awesome, right? But when I hear her talk about it, she uses terms like "that stupid half marathon," and "I hate long run days."

When I started posting my runs to facebook, friends asked if I was training for something. Nope. (Remember, keeping the dog poo at bay.) I hated it. HATED IT. It hurt. It was hard. It was boring. I couldn't find the right music. It was too early. It took forever. I couldn't see any results (except for less dog poo in the house). I'm very good at complaining and justifying. But the power of the poo was strong, and I had to keep running. I was like my half marathon friend.

Over time, the power of the poo paled in comparison to what I had discovered. I discovered that I loved feeling like a total rock star at how many miles I'd logged. I smiled to hear my kids tell their friends how far their mom can run. I blushed to read so many nice comments from my completely cool friends. Rejoiced that my running clothes were TOO BIG! (Can I get a woot woot?) What I found was that my reason for running had changed.

Don't misunderstand. It was more than the weight, more than impressing my kids, more than getting my ego stroked. My reason had morphed from an external impetus (poo) to an internal one.

That's a long way of asking, "what are your reasons for running (or doing the thing you are doing)?" I asked my half-marathon-hating-friend to define hers. I don't know if she did but it occurred to me that maybe her reasons were like mine, outwardly impressed upon her.

When I act at the prompting of others, I can do the job, but I can't sustain motivation for it. I might lose the desire (if I ever had it) to complete it well. I could not keep running to prevent the poo because there would be a day when picking it up would be more appealing than running in the rain or cold.

When I act for a reason that I can firmly stand behind come rain, cold or fatigue, then I can get my running clothes on and get out the door like I'm headed to a party.

But here's the thing. Your reason will be different from mine. That's okay. You may start like I did, hating every single minute of it. That's okay. You may not really want to define it. That's okay, too. You may start with one and move on to another. Again, it's okay.

What I've learned is that when you have a reason that is strictly and solely yours, you will act with abandon and joy. You will own the track, or the class, or the whatever. You will be a total rock star.

A word of caution: Don't think it has to be a pretty reason, an altruistic reason, a glamorous reason. It just has to be yours and you have to believe it. It can even be as simple as "I want to."

Find your why, and write it down. Somewhere. Anywhere. You can tell it to someone if you want, but you don't have to. Just find it and know it.

Next time I'll tell you why I refuse to say the word, "should."


  1. This explains so much! I've been wondering how on earth you got from where you were with running to where you are.

    There is definitely an important difference between the external and internal motivators in our lives. But I think the even more important point you've made is that our impetus can shift and change over time, in surprising ways. It's not realistic to think that we should only do the things we *really* want to do (well, it's realistic, I guess, if you're a spoiled rotten 4-year-old!). Sometimes we need to give it some time—do something for what feels like the *wrong* reason—in order to figure out how to uncover the right reasons.

  2. you just articulated the very essence of being an independent, self employed, work-from-home Mary Kay consultant: it has to be intrinsic. and my frustration at trying to motivate/encourage/inspire others to GO TO WORK, PEOPLE! can i get an AMEN here? can i post a link to this blog entry? you are a total rock star, girlfriend! *she does an obeisance here*

  3. Kristin, my thoughts exactly. Who knew I'd fall in love with running? Not this girl. And this idea definitely applies to any job or task.

    Laureen, you are so so right. Some of those independent tasks can be so easy to put off because there's no one to report to about your success. And it's absolutely a challenge to motivate others who haven't defined their why Couple an ambiguous why with an ambiguous definition of success and you have a recipe for, at best, moderate success, at worst, tepid inertia. Of course you can link.

    Both you fab ladies should know that this is second in a series on running I'm writing. I'll refer you to the previous post about my lack of expertise to get an intro into the topic.