What happens when the goal you originally set needs to change? Or when you really doubt you can achieve it because other things have changed? It’s all well and good setting goals (based on what you know at the time), but there will inevitably be times when you need to reassess.
Have you ever reached a point where you’re questioning yourself and why you even started something? You’re not alone. Most of us will experience junctures where we question our belief in what we’re doing.
For endurance runners, this can be particularly scary because we depend on focus and commitment. If we lack either, we fail to train and prepare for the next goal – crossing a finishing line, or setting a new time, for instance. When that goal feels out of our grasp and we doubt whether it’s even achievable, we open ourselves up to self-doubt. Even worse, we can question why we bother to invest so much effort towards our running in the first place.
I see life as a ‘sine curve’ (hence the name of this site). We’re always moving along it through a cycle of highs, lows and ‘middle bits’. The lows can feel like winter – a time of loss and reassessment. Here’s what to do if you’re experiencing this crippling self-doubt right now:
Remember the good times
Why did you start running in the first place? And how good did it feel to finish your first event, or at the end of your favourite training route? How proud are you of what you’ve achieved through running? Think about how much stronger you are now – mentally and physically – compared to when you started your running journey.
Time for reflection
However low you might be feeling right now, when you look in the mirror you’ll see a leaner, more focused athlete than you were before. That’s because, on some level, you envisioned a goal, planned, set some milestones, and achieved some victories, however small. That all required effort and perseverance, so give yourself a pat on the back.
Ask for help
Sometimes it’s not enough to look back and appreciate how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved to get you out of a funk. If you’ve got a coach, ask them to help you through this. If not, talk to friends and fellow runners. They don’t need to have all the answers – they just need to be willing to listen and help you discover your own answers.
Work out whether it’s time to change
Ultimately, it boils down to two questions: do you change your goal, or change your timeline?
This is a hard one. I’d seriously question, question and question again before changing a goal. Again, it’s about looking back to think forward. Remember why you set the goal in the first place and the excitement you felt. If the reason why you set off on this journey has changed, ask yourself if there are other good reasons to continue. Sometimes when we are in a period of change, sticking to a regular running habit can provide a strong sense of continuity and purpose while we find new direction in our wider lives.
If it’s a question of changing commitments, take a good look at your training and what you could, or should, be doing differently. Successful running requires more than increasing speeds or distances – think about quality and good conditioning.
Whatever you do, don’t dwell in this place of self-doubt. Remember all the good stuff, give yourself some praise for how far you’ve come, and reassess practically what you can switch up to keep you on track to achieve your goals.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. If there’s one thing failure’s taught me, it’s that I failed for a reason. Pinpoint why it happened, work out what needs to change, and remember to build on what did go right. That’s it!