I Against I

I can call myself a runner now. I’m pretty sure a successful 10 mile jog and consistent 4-7 mile runs over the past year at least allow me to add “Runner” to my Twitter bio, right?

I told myself at the beginning of this year that I was finally going to get disciplined about being active and getting healthy. What started as a struggle to keep my legs moving for even a mile has led me to discovering something that not only has me feeling healthier, more energized, and confident – but has taught me valuable lessons about staying motivated, focused, and driven.

The only sport I attempt to be decent at (if you can call it a sport) is golf. My love of the game stems from the mental challenge more than the physical (because, let’s face it, I wasn’t built to push around 300lb lineman on a football field or sprint up and down a soccer field). In golf, you compete against yourself, and only yourself. Sure, there may be money or glory in the way of a “championship belt”, but at the end of the day, you are your only obstacle.

Running is very much the same. During a run, the only voice telling you to stop is your own. The only pain you feel is self inflicted. And (aside from running in a race), the only finish line is the one you set for yourself.

That’s why it’s so empowering to push through the pain. To ignore the voices in your head telling you to let up. To meet your goals and in short, overcome yourself.

So much of our focus is on those around us. We use competition to benchmark our own goals, to set our own expectations, and to make our own pace. But if you focus on simply being better than those around you, are you REALLY focused on being YOUR best?

Seth Godin hits the nail on the head this morning.

If you’re going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you’ve surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go.

If you’re dependent on competition then you’re counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you’ll do. Worse, you’ve signed up for a career of faux death matches as the only way to do your best work.

Self motivation is and always will be the most important form of motivation. Driving with your eyes on the rear view mirror is exhausting. It’s easier than ever to measure your performance against others, but if it’s not helping you with your mission, stop.

With everything you do, the focus shouldn’t be on being better than the man running next to you, but rather to be at your best.

You may not win the race, but if you’ve overcome yourself and defied your own odds, the race has already been won.