Two months ago I decided to see how long it would take me to run a mile. I have always been more of a slow and steady kinda girl. In the past I would run 5-6 miles on week days and twice as much on weekends, but I have never gotten below a 7 minute mile. And then the endo got really bad and I stopped walking, let alone running, and gained quite a bit of weight.
Over the past few months I have sloooooowly returned to “running” and still prefer several miles at a slow pace to any attempt at really running. But I needed to know what I could actually do, and to push myself to really run more regularly.
I timed myself for a mile. I told myself that it didn’t matter how out of shape I was, I really, really had to run the mile in less than 10 minutes. I simply had to, or I was never going to be fit again.
So I ran. I did not let myself go too fast because it was important that I actually run the whole way, but I tried so very hard to finish the mile in less than 10 minutes.
I was so out of breath at the end that I barely noticed the time, but a few seconds after I stopped I looked down to see 7:55. Huh?
Apparently I had been running 10 minute miles for months, but still saw myself as nowhere near able to run. So I did not push myself. And when it came to setting goals, I kept them quite small. 3 miles in 25 minutes? Impossible.
It does not really matter that I underestimated myself in terms of running. The real problem is that I tend to do this in just about every area of my life. And it is difficult to set appropriate goals without an accurate assessment of one’s own abilities.
Last October I took down the page that had my 101 in 1001 list because it was depressing. The list did not seem impossible to accomplish, it seemed pointless. It was the careful calculation of underestimation. The first item on the list is “run a half marathon.” Great, right? Except that what I should have put was “run a marathon.” Two and a half years is plenty of time to train. But I did not know for certain that I could complete a marathon. And while I’ve never run a half-marathon before, there was that one hot Sunday afternoon in July where I would have run 15 miles had I not walked the last 3 because I had no water. So a half-marathon was reasonable. And boring.
While it is great to have realistic goals, it is not great to have goals that are so realistic that they are mere mile-markers rather than actual goals. What is the point of having a list of things to accomplish if I do not even care about achieving the goals because they are based on a low estimation of my abilities?
So I am reviving my 101 in 1001 list because it is good to have goals, but I am also copying Kathleen and editing the list. I do not just want to have a list of items to cross off, I want to have goals which reflect lofty dreams combined with realistic self-assessment.
How do you set appropriate goals for yourself? For those of you more tempted to underestimate than overestimate yourself, what tricks have you found to push yourself to your full potential?
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