Just a few weeks ago, goal setting was the topic everyone was talking about. It’s inevitable as the changing of the year approaches. Over where I co-blog about running and related things, I wrote about setting SMART/smart goals. The latter brought me back to a concept I picked up last year of selecting a theme or mantra for the year.
As I considered my running goals, I thought about a theme that would fit, not just for fitness but for life more broadly.
It started with a single word: thrive.
The word carries particular connotations for me. It prompts an image of a healthy, growing plant, or even a lush, active ecosystem filled with flora and fauna. It communicates to me both growth and calm. There’s a sense of freedom to thriving. There’s still plenty of activity and change, even work and effort involved, but not in a way that translates to exertion and exhaustion. (Maybe this just reads like, “work but not work.” An image is worth a thousand words, and maybe I’m not finding the best ones to communicate the image in my head.)
I set building as my theme for 2018. There were enormous changes in my life last year. As I reflected on 2018 a few weeks ago, another word came to mind: striving.
Like thrive, strive has certain undertones in my mind—exertion, trying. There’s a sense of push, even struggle. It prompts me to think of high intensity intervals, workouts when I, for instance, sprint hard for a quarter mile, even up to a mile. At the end of that interval, I’m gasping for air, my legs are burning, and I feel like I don’t have one more step. Then the recovery period begins, a walk or a slow jog to catch my breath and my legs before going again.
Striving is a good thing. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” a gym instructor would say in the midst of a challenging interval. But high intensity intervals, while incredibly beneficial, are just one element of training. Variety is the spice of life, and if your ultimate goal is to go a long distance, you have to put in long, easy miles. And if you want to do it for some time to come, then every effort can’t be a slog. If it is, that’s a recipe for burnout.
In 2018, I had an injury that forced me to stop running a few weeks and
derailed delayed a major goal. There were some bumps (to be expected) in moving into full-time residence with my partner, but eventually we settled in. My new job brought some challenges too.
Transitions—new place, new responsibilities—are always stressful. But my supervisor normally would have contributed heavily to my training and development but wasn’t able to at the time time. He provided guidance as needed, and my co-workers were very helpful in bringing me up to speed, not just on structure and approach but also on vision and culture. I forged ahead and figured things out, but I felt tentative, beyond the typical new job jitters. And then my supervisor died. Oddly, after the initial period of shock and grief, I’ve started to move a couple of projects forward, slowly, even as we search for a new director.
As I reflected on the year behind and the year to come, I found that I felt I’d been in the strive space and wanted to find the thrive space. There is still a place for reaching and pushing in the latter, but I’m looking to find my stride—the point where I’m moving with purpose and pace but a certain level of comfort and confidence.
When I described my 2019 mantra at Boundary Conditions, though, I set it as “progress from striving to thriving.” I wanted to acknowledge that, even if I find that “thrive space”, it’s not going to be easy or flawless or constant. There will ever be times and places to strive, when struggling is part of the process. I wanted to frame my theme as progress over perfection.
As I’ve spent more time meditating on this mantra, I’ve realized that this little token perhaps captures what I’m looking for.