I remember crossing the finish line of a half marathon a few months ago, with that sinking feeling of knowing things just didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. That feeling of some combination of anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness all mixed together with self-doubt, “you suck at this,” and a kick to self-confidence all at the same time.
It wasn’t that I had big PR plans in mind, or aspirations of winning the race or anything, but I had plans for things bigger than what I ended up with. Don’t we always?
The thing about running is that it always seems like there is only one chance. You put your heart and soul into training for that PR, that BQ, that flashy new time goal, that impressive new distance. You make sacrifices, make changes, make time, make difficult decisions. There are so many early mornings, early (Saturday) nights and early bed times; so many things you say no to, or things you don’t go to, all in the name of that one shot.
And when it doesn’t happen it (understandably) hits pretty hard. Hard enough that we start to tell ourselves these stories about how we suck, or should quit, we aren’t as good as we thought we were, or that we didn’t train hard enough. We convince ourselves that we messed everything up and that we’ll never get what we are after or reach the goal we are trying to achieve. We tell ourselves that we failed.
But what about if instead of saying that we failed, we think of it as just that we didn’t get there yet. Instead of saying “I can’t,” saying “I can’t yet.”
It’s the concept of the growth mindset: the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn from and solve problems, as discovered by Carol Dweck.
What if every time we went for a run it became a chance to do the things that we can’t do yet, achieve the things we want, but haven’t fulfilled yet? It’s the mindset that helps us see everything as a work in progress, one step towards something else, and when we get there, we’ll be going for something else.
Stop looking at your running as an all or nothing, this time or never, fail or succeed kind of deal. Instead, adopt the growth mindset, and recognize that somethings you just haven’t done it yet! Here’s how to put the growth mindset into action:
- Change your words – Stop saying you failed to get the time you wanted, or you failed at your interval session today because your paces were out. Use it as a learning opportunity to see where things went wrong and say that you are learning from your slower times instead of being failed by them.
- Use challenge as opportunity – Those hills? They’re not hard, they’re an opportunity for you to practice for the hills in your target race so you can nail them on race day. That interval workout at the track? It’s a chance for you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and see how hard you can push and how much you are capable of.
- Celebrate your growth – We say running is about just putting one foot in front of the other. And so every day that you go out and you do more than that and you kick some butt and nail your workout, it’s growth. It’s progress. And it’s worth celebrating. Give yourself a little credit every day, not banking it all up until race day in the hopes that you achieve what you want and get to have the credit. You get to have it now.
- Cultivate grit – That drive, that perseverance, that deep determination, that little part inside of you that comes out when your run sucks and you hurt and it’s hard and you keep going anyway. Let that shine! It’s moments like that which show you what you are capable of and help you grow!
- Embrace the suck – If you want to get faster, stronger, better, farther, it’s not going to be easy. But if you let yourself quit just when it starts getting hard, you also aren’t going to get there. When you go out for a hard run, and it sucks and you’re in pain and you want to pull back or go home, embrace the suck and keep going. It’s the best way to get there.
- Value the process (and the time that it takes) – Don’t be focused only on the end goal, the last step, the big ending. Instead, focus on the process and each step to get there, and appreciate it for being just that: a process that you are progressing through. And remember that good things take time!
How are you cultivating a growth mindset in your running?