The last time I went for a run, a few days ago, I noticed that my running shoes are worn out. They have holes in their tops and bottoms. It is, of course, natural that runners wear out their shoes and probably frequently. I, on the other hand, am not a runner – not an avid runner that is and certainly not a marathon runner. I run from time to time – usually a few times a week, for short distances – a few kilometres, although I do not know how many because I don’t track it. Tracking distance or heart rate or speed are not important to me. But I do have a context for my running and fitness goals. There is a certain level of fitness where I feel good, where my body feels good, where there is stamina for doing the simple things of my day and where rest also comes easy. Feeling good is a measure I use.
From the time I was in high school (a long time ago now), I always thought I should run. So many attempts to start were given up because it was too cold, because I got shin splints or it was just too hard. I always knew being physically fit was important for all kinds of good health related reasons. But knowing that clearly did not give me the context or motivation I needed to run or for many other sustained levels of physical fitness either for that matter.
There were two related things that did eventually provide context and motivation for me. The first was that I started to play soccer in my early forties. I enjoyed playing soccer. The thing with soccer is, you have to run to play. So chasing a soccer ball around a field became my motivation to start running. And it still took time, and it was hard but now I had a motivation and context that made me stick with it. I began to run around my neighbourhood, mapping out two different distances. In the beginning I ran to a fire hydrant, walked to the next. My stamina kept increasing until I was running more than walking, until finally I could run the whole distances I had mapped out. Then I discovered how much better I felt even doing the simple tasks of my day. Being in a position of heightened awareness of how it felt to be out of shape and how it feels to be in better shape provides context and motivation for ongoing physical fitness, even now that I no longer play soccer. And my goals are simple: feel good, be able to lift my carry on luggage into the overhead bins of airplanes and navigate short connection times in airports by being able to run from one gate to another sometimes across great distances in airports, trailing my carry on luggage behind me. These are not necessarily measures other people would consider valid, but they work for me and that’s what matters.
There are some other benefits for me from going for a run. One is that it takes me out of my head and into my body, relaxing my mind, allowing me to connect with spirit and with inspiration. A few blog posts have been written right after a run. Sometimes it is not writing that follows a run but meditation – inside or outside – for ten minutes up to thirty minutes – to just breathe, hold the space, stay in presence and awareness rather than in the thinking mind.
For someone who has had some health issues, the context might be different and being healthy to avoid illness or other health issues might be just the right motivation. It doesn’t mean it needs to be – or is – that way for all of us. For someone who does run marathons (or wants to), then again a different context provides motivation with different measures of achievement.
Context for health goals is not the only place where motivation is needed. What is the context for your other life goals like where you live, what kind of housing you live in, whether you drive a car and if so what kind, your family and relationships, your social circles, your intellectual and spiritual goals? What is the context for your career goals, what kind of job and job environment, responsibility, authority do you want, how much money do you want to make, what kind of flexibility do you want and do you want travel involved or not? If you are not achieving your goals, maybe the context is not clear or you haven’t tapped into your motivation – why it all matters. We make decisions each and every day. Make yours count.