Goals and Moving Targets
If you give a man a bow and arrow and tell him to "SHOOT!" his first response will likely be, "at what?!" But if you give the archer a target and challenge him to hit the bullseye - everything changes. The target gives him something to aim at, a goal to challenge his skills, a measure of progress, and something that gives all of his effort purpose.
Goals have the propensity to change our lives - to give aim to the things we want to accomplish - and they can outline the steps we need to take to achieve our dreams. We can imagine that, when the archer polishes his aim, takes a shot and hits the bullseye he feels a sense of fulfillment. But what happens if he misses the bullseye? Are all of his efforts for not?
On the morning that our Taste Agent + Asics Mammoth Track Club runner Lauren Jimison woke up to run her first US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, she had been training for the race "...really, as long as I've been running (almost 15 years)." She had a relaxed morning, warmed up with her teammates, and reclined in the shade waiting for the race to start. What was to come was one of the hardest races of Lauren's life, on the date of the hottest Olympic Marathon Trials in history.
You don't arrive at the Olympic Trials unprepared, untrained, or unaware of the weight of what's at stake. At just 25 years old, Lauren is younger than many of her elite competitors in the marathon and this changed her target on the day. "Training and preparing for a race or marathon is the accumulation of good days put on top of good weeks put on top of great months and great years," Lauren says. "I knew that I had the chance to make the Olympic team, but I also respect the marathon, the distance, and the women expected to make the team. More than anything, this was an opportunity to gain experience; experience that I'll just build on in the future."
And so, while the target was - of course - to make the 2016 Olympic team, Lauren's target began to move; to a place where the goal was simply to be in it, to learn all that she could from the race, and to run her best. "I knew it could be a really tough day in the warm, but believed I was fit and ready to leave my heart out there." she says. And it was. And she did.
The sun grew hotter, and the race gun went off. "Nausea set in around mile 10 and I spent the race in prayer that I wouldn't have to drop out due to throwing up (something I've never experienced in racing or workouts)." says Lauren. But, her college teammates, friends, and family had come out to cheer her on and were screaming from the sidelines. "We prepare for all conditions on my team," she says, "so in that moment I just knew I was going to finish because I HAVE to….what I was experiencing was a battle for many unsure miles. And I knew that just finishing the race would make me a stronger runner.”
Just completing the race became her goal; less so qualifying for the team, and not even learning from each stride she took. Just proving to herself that she could conquer the finish line that felt so very far away. At mile 20, she stopped to take a bottle and nearly dropped out. “Any minute, I thought I was going to have to stop and throw up, unsure if I could run any more...but there wasn’t anything for me after the trials. There was no reason for me not to push myself."
From attempting to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Team, to learning as much as she could on the course, to simply finishing the race, one could say that Lauren's goal at the Olympic Trials changed three times. She crossed the finish line, in a time slower than expected, but there was no failure in missing the target; Lauren grew stronger as a runner and as a person just by persevering. And building strength is nothing if not a worthy goal.
"My dear friend Alexi Pappas gave me some of the best advice ever: 'be kind to yourself.'" Lauren says. "This seems like silly advice but I think it's true; it's important to have goals, and pursue them relentlessly, but sometimes you have to take a step back and feel lucky to be in the moment, healthy enough to be pursuing a dream."
Set those sights, outline your goals, and aim for them. The path to success might not be of your design, but know that just by attempting to reach your aspirations you're already succeeding. By fully embracing the journey of achievement - in all of its glory and grit - you've already won.