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Strive for Fulfillment, not Achievement

I’m going to tell you guys about a podcast episode I listened to, and how it really spoke to me and related really well to running. I like to listen to podcasts; I listen to them all the time. On my ride home today was listening to one by Russell Brunson, who’s the creator of Clickfunnels. He is big into marketing, but he does some self-improvement/self-help kind of professional development talks as well. I listen to a lot of those just trying to better myself day in and day out. Today his talk was about the science of achievement vs. the art of fulfillment. The title caught my attention so I thought to myself, “Alright, I’ll listen to this one,” and the more I got into it, the more I kept thinking “this is exactly what I deal with, from a running perspective.” I think there are so many runners out there who struggle with the same thing, so let’s talk about achievement and fulfillment, their differences, how it pertains to running, and then I’ll tell you a story at the end.

The science of achievement – that’s what we live for in running most of the time. We set a goal, there’s a time goal (PR in the mile or run a fast time in the marathon or whatever), and our life is structured around achieving that goal. I’ll ask you, (if you’re like me, you’ve thought/asked this constantly): have you ever ran a time, set a PR, or finished a race and not felt any different? It’s like, “Well, yeah, I ran the fastest I’ve ever run, but now what’s next?” You just set another goal, and you just try to run faster.

I have had happen that countless times, consistently throughout my career. I’d run huge PR and I’d feel like nothing ever changed. When I ran a PR by a ton – I ran 4:05 in the mile – it was a big race for me, a big negative split, and I remember thinking “Well, I don’t feel any different.” I ran really hard, I got into that flow state, and that was awesome, my time was good, but all my critiquing – “I negative split here…I could have picked up more time at the beginning…” – made my goal immediately become just “now I want to run faster…how close to 4:00 can I get?”

I think that’s a consistent thing we get in the running world. We know, from a scientific perspective, that achievement is based on structure and routine. In running, where we are beings that are habitually doing this thing over and over again, thriving most of time on that structure, so we’ve got a training plan; we know how many days a week we’re running. Maybe we’ve got a coach, that’s structuring the plan for us. We’ve got recovery tools. We’ve got recovery days, strength training, long runs, easy runs, recovery runs, tempo runs, critical velocity, speed, endurance – all these different aspects of running better, that are very scientifically founded, help create that structure for us from an achievement standpoint. We know that if we have that structure, and we follow that structure, it sets us up for success and for that achievement, and if you’re lacking achievement, then you might be missing part of that structure. You might need to do some research and figure out a good training plan. You might need to add something in your training plan that you’ve been missing. You might need to hire a coach and have somebody talk to you and help develop and figure out a plan constructed to fit your life if there’s something that’s missing.

From a scientific perspective, we know that achievement needs structure, and in running, generally, we’re pretty good at that. The piece that we’re bad at is fulfillment, for a lot of us. That’s something that I’ve grown to have more and more of as I’ve gotten older and learned a little bit, but in my younger years of competing in college and in high school, I didn’t care about fulfillment – all I wanted to do is achieve. It left this hole in my running that I thought I could fill with just more achievement. I thought I could just run faster, and that would fill that piece that was missing for running and missing in life. Spoiler alert: that’s not right. We can achieve as much as we possibly think we can, and we’re always going to miss that fulfillment piece. The challenge is those two pieces are at odds with one another. Achievement is based on a lot of structure, but fulfillment in activity and fulfillment in life, often comes from having less structure and from slowing down, being present, taking time to truly experience what’s going on. There’s a challenge there: What do we do? What are we prioritizing?

My challenge to you guys is to do both; to know that we need achievement, when we want to strive for success and when we want to reach our goals – whether it’s a time goal, race goal or distance goal (which are all important), but also take a moment for fulfillment and slow down a little bit. Go to an event and enjoy the experience of being there. Go to the trail and enjoying nature and the experience. Just take a little bit more time to feel fulfilled. For me, it fills a lot of that void that is left by achievement alone. It doesn’t have to be everyday. A lot of the structure that’s going to lead to success is consistently doing what you’re striving to do over and over and over again, but there needs to be some time built in, where you you take a step back, and you slow down.

One time where I saw a lot of this, was actually with my wife. She ran the Boston Marathon. She went into her first marathon wanting to qualify, so the big achievement goal, and the plan that we had set was to qualify for Boston. She crushed the time goal. She shattered things, and we knew that she was well under the standard. We knew that she was going to qualify. That achievement piece was there: she succeeded at that. The next goal is: Boston’s coming up, what do we do? We set another achievement goal to do at Boston, and, spoiler alert, she didn’t achieve that goal. It wasn’t the day that she had hoped for, from a performance standpoint, but more importantly, she achieved the fulfillment goal.

If you asked her, I bet she would tell you that her most memorable experience or one of her most fulfilling experiences was running the Boston Marathon, not because of how well she ran, but because of the experience that we had, the time that we took to step away from the actual event and just get immersed in the culture and take a trip with the two of us that we don’t normally get to do, the time that we were able to spend away, the little vacation, the historical sites that we were able to visit and enjoying just the events\ that’s going on and being present in the moment. It’s unbelievable to go to the Boston Marathon and just experienced the amount of people that are out there and the historical nature of it. I was, at that time, really achievement focused, so to be able to see her focus a little bit more on the fulfillment, and to be able to experience that with her was eye opening for me. My challenge for you guys: continue to achieve and strive for achievement, but take some time to be fulfilled.

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.