Whenever I look at setting myself a goal or a target to achieve I always look at why I’m doing it. I might already know how I’m going to do it and what I’m going to do to achieve it. The real driver to achieving it is why, the purpose of doing it in the first place. If you want to look at this concept in a bit more depth look at some of the videos the brilliant Simon Sinek has done on the topic.
I’ve always had an interest in endurance sports and have taken part in them since 1996 when I took part in my first triathlon. I didn’t know a great deal about the sport, motivation theories, or training back then (this was before the internet. I had one book and a couple of copies of ‘Triathlete’ magazine). It seemed like a good challenge and something I would enjoy, as well as feeling a sense of achievement.
That sense of why hasn’t changed a great deal 25 years later with the ultra-marathon – why am I doing it? I’ve never done a run of that distance before, so it is a sense of the unknown, it has given me a goal to aim towards this year, and the sense of achievement when I cross that finishing line are great drivers. It is something I want to prove to myself that I can do.
It has also had an impact on other areas of my life as well. My focus has improved, my diet has improved, my motivation is better, sense of well-being and the way I view myself has improved. I enjoy training. I can’t train for the sake of training though. I need a goal or target to work towards. There needs to be an outcome at the end of it. To me, it is more than just saying I want to be fitter and healthier (and this is very subjective and has multiple variables as well). That end-goal is important.
Knowing why I am doing it is important throughout. What the purpose of doing all that training is building to – physically, mentally and emotionally. I know there will be challenges along the way, but I also know I have it in my ability to overcome those challenges – I just need to return to the purpose, 'the why' I’m doing it.
There are times when I’m out running when I think about slowing the pace or even stopping and walking for 50 m or so but I manage that internal self-talk and return to the purpose and 'the why' to motivate myself to keep going – quitting is not an option. I’ve not missed one training session this year – every session I’ve completed no matter how I’m feeling or what the weather is doing – because I’m focused on why I’m doing this.
I’d much rather train when I don’t feel like it and/or train in the wind and rain than not even make the start line (let alone the finish line!)
The runs are getting longer every week now and every time they are getting longer I’m enjoying them more. There are probably a few reasons for this – the sense of achievement for building up the mileage and also being a step closer each time to achieving that overall goal. Running a couple of different routes recently has helped with the motivation – exploring different parts of the city and wondering where a certain trail or path leads is always pretty cool.
Having that sense of why and purpose has been filtering into other areas of my life as well, since the start of the year and the other goals and targets I set for myself – I think the motivation becomes contagious and those links are easily made. On the flip side of that, if the motivation isn’t there then that negativity also becomes contagious. I know this from times when my mental health has been at rock bottom – that purpose isn’t there, there is no why, there is no focus, motivation doesn’t exist. Having been at the abyss of trying to take my own life years ago I know how important it is to have that sense of purpose. I had nothing to drive me then.
Nowadays, I have lots of things that drive me. I set myself challenging goals – they are not easy, and they are not impossible either. I know that they will stretch me as I work to achieve them. I know I need to have self-discipline to achieve them.
As lockdown eases I know that I must remain as focused now as ever before, going out and meeting friends is not the main priority, easing off and kicking back to have some downtime is not an option for the moment. What is the priority is getting in those long miles in training, getting my studies done for work, focusing on ticking off a couple more of the goals I’ve set for myself.
I know when I’ve achieved them I can look in the mirror and be pleased with the effort, application, drive, sacrifice, and determination. And when that happens it is time to create new goals and targets, new purposes and finding the new and next why.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.