A few years ago, I was in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada and on the day my husband and I were due to fly back to London we decided to take our friends’ bulldog, Sophie, out for a walk. Much like a Gremlin (don’t get wet, and don’t feed after midnight), Sophie comes with instructions.
Keep Sophie away from traffic cones.
Keep Sophie away from basketballs.
Keep Sophie away from skateboards.
Why? Because Sophie gets hyper-focused, latches on and won’t let go.
We had only been walking for about 5 minutes when Sophie pulled on the leash and raced towards a yellow fence made of plastic piping. And, as soon as she reached the fence, she bit onto the plastic tubing and would not let go. No amount of pulling, yanking, pleading or bribing would loosen her grip – she was hyper-focused on her goal of “hold onto the fence for dear life and no matter what, do not let go”.
I’m pretty sure Sophie is a Type A personality.
As we tried negotiating and coaxing her into letting go, it dawned on me that I am like Sophie. I too can get super focused on a goal, and I also am not so good about letting go of a target.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, months, I trained for the Vancouver marathon, and I had grand ambitions of running it in just over 4 hours. Two months before the marathon, I became injured with a re-occurring IT band injury which meant that I was forced to modify my goal. And, I didn’t do this without a fight – I forced myself to run through the pain, attempted various rest and recovery plans, and in the end, it took a significant meltdown for me to modify my goal.
I had been running for about 7 miles along the Thames River when the water bottle in my Camelback broke and soaked my clothing, and, to compound things, the heavens decided to open up. Torrential rains engulfed me, and as I ran, slipped and sloshed my way through mud puddles with my IT Band screaming in pain, I finally yelled out loud in frustration “This is such bull sh*t”. To which I then burst into tears and received a cuddle from an older man and his dog, who just happened to walk past and witness my outburst.
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew at that moment that I had to amend my goal. For it is not normal for me to have meltdowns (at least in public anyway) or to receive cuddles from strangers.
And so, I modified my goal to complete the marathon with no set completion time.
Fast forward to the day of the marathon – it was a beautiful 23 degrees, and as I ran through the starting line, I didn’t click my watch or turn on the Nike app to tell me my pace, but instead I decided to enjoy the experience. And enjoy it I did – I didn’t suffer any fatigue or hit the infamous wall which I had been dreading. I took a leisurely pace and drunk in the beautiful scenery of my hometown and enjoyed the experience. And, I completed in the marathon in 5:04, which I was pleased with considering the heat and my injuries.
My lesson? Set goals but be prepared to pivot and adapt the goal if needed. Modifying a goal does not mean failure.
Oh, and if you are in Yaletown in Vancouver I’d appreciate if you could pop by with a basketball or a traffic cone – we still need to get Sophie off that damn fence.
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