The real value in doing my best

The link intrigued me — “9 Steps to Reach Any Goal.” I’m always interested in what others have to say about goal setting and creating a life you love. So I clicked on it. But the more I read, the more agitated I became, because I wasn’t sure I agreed with the steps, at least not in the ways in which they were presented. Take the step “reach high” which included this quote from the interviewed expert: “The admonition ‘Do your best’ is a recipe for mediocrity.”

Whoa. Wait a minute. While I find setting specific outcomes helpful in planning and focusing on your goals, equating doing ones best with mediocrity doesn’t jive with me. Then again, this is what I get for reading the website of a “fitness” magazine which also promotes itself with teasers to get your bikini beach body in four weeks. Somewhere I heard a media and sports scholar describe women’s fitness magazines as beauty and fashion magazines in disguise. But that’s a topic for another day.

See, I believe there are many different ways to set and reach goals. What matters is, well, what matters to you. There’s a balancing act between not selling yourself short and setting up unrealistic expectations which crush your spirit. You can expect more from yourself and dream big. You can be ambiguous and specific simultaneously. A contradiction? The world thrives on contradiction.

Need an example? Here’s one from my training for the Sehgahundea Trail Marathon next weekend. I remind myself why it is I am doing this trail marathon, my first off-road distance experience. Why is this important to me? And so I start listing reasons:

  • This is an opportunity to do something completely different.
  • This is a challenge and something that is hard for me.
  • I enjoy pushing the edges of my comfort zone.
  • I love being in the woods.
  • Doing this race, I’ll be completely on my own which is scary but also a sign of strength and courage.

As I begin to list my reasons for doing the trail marathon, I find ways in which this event connects with some of my values — those qualities of life which are most important to me. Among my values are authenticity (being my unique self), adventure and joy. I have a value of respect for nature and have always been drawn to the power of solitude (for short periods of time). Now, actual training for my trail marathon has involved lots of specific work. This has included, but is not limited to:

  • Long runs to build endurance.
  • Track workouts to work on speed.
  • Tempo runs to push myself slightly out of my comfort zone over longer distances.
  • Strength work, especially on my core.
  • Good nutrition and hydration planning both for the actual race and in everyday life to support my training and desire for a healthy lifestyle.

Numbers (in the wellness biz known as “metrics”) play into these steps. There’s pace, distance and calories and a lot of other measurements that can be thrown in the mix. But for me, they’re not my goals. They’re steps which will help me get to and enjoy my actual goals. And my actual goals are doing things which express my deepest values. Remember my new favorite motto? Dare to Suck. See, in all likelihood I will be one of the last finishers of this marathon. But I’m not in it to win it. Not in the traditional sense of winning (which of course, means first place). My win will be participating in something adventurous and challenging. It will be doing something off road, metaphorically off the beaten path. And if I show up and do my best, well, that’s a pretty darn good goal to achieve. Because too often we sell ourselves short on what “doing my best” really is. What does your best really look like? It doesn’t have to be fast or strong or brilliant, at least in the conventional way. Your best is really quite unique and amazing, and something the rest of the world is eagerly waiting to see.

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