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Month: May 2024

Motivation vs Identity

This podcast discussed how we maintain long-term habits that are beneficial. There was a key component they touched on that I relate to with running, athletics, and endurance. We have all seen a motivational video of someone doing something amazing, or perhaps we have read a powerful motivational quote. Motivation is finite. It is powerful but brief. It’s useful to get the flywheel spinning for change, but it doesn’t last. Motivation also needs constant doses to keep you going; like bathing, you must do it daily. You have to do it often to keep the power of motivation fresh, with more needed to continue to stoke the fire it sparked.

There’s a second, more powerful fuel that goes beyond motivation. It’s when you start to see an action as part of your identity. When you start to see an action or job as part of who you are, it transforms way beyond motivation. This is what I have noticed in my own journey of self-discovery.

I put on my trail runner mask most mornings

You were born a blank slate. Today, you are an amalgamation of different bits and pieces that inspired you. Role models, family figures, and maybe authority figures inspired your identity. It’s that identity that is interesting to me because it’s created. You create the person you see looking back at you. That image of who we see is what we present to the world. Motivation is a fuel; it burns fast like a carbohydrate and is powerful but finite. Identity is the equivalent of using fat as fuel while running; it powers you longer. The issue is that it’s hard to change identity; it takes time and is a slow, long process. Once you tap into it as a fuel source, you will find that you have almost unlimited energy to chase your pursuits.

The more I raise my kids, the more I realize how your identity shifts over time. We are a blank canvas painted with what we experience daily. We wear labels we assign ourselves like masks as part of our identity. I’ve seen it on forums, blog posts, and people asking, “Can I call myself an ultrarunner after a 50K?” When can I assign that label to myself, to be MORE than what I currently represent? We start seeing ourselves as less of a blank slate, and more a character in a story we call our life.

I’ve acquired many labels: father, husband, runner, ultrarunner. Those are part of my identity now. I read a list of motivational quotes when I wake up as part of my daily routine. They help me kick-start ideas and principles that drive my identity. They are helpful as a tool to guide my thought process for what’s important NOW. You GET to have a choice because as I have said, you can change your thoughts to shape the world around you.

I feel joy when what I’m doing aligns with the labels I’ve attached to my identity. I’m a GOOD father and a GOOD runner. I have seen it affect my mood when I do poorly in those labels, as my expectations are not lining up with who I believe I am. I am still more just trying to experience things as they happen without that expectation tied to it. I am less tied to the outcome and more attached to the process that I keep showing up to continue to play my role in these parts, even when I don’t feel like it. Training is hard, and there are days the comfort of the bed is calling me, but I know that doesn’t align with who I believe I am. There are people I love who depend on me as a father, husband, and even a runner! If you are reading this, maybe that’s you! 🙂

He must be wearing the new Garmin you sew into your skin… LoL

Identity has kept me running for 25+ years. I’ll call myself a runner long after my legs give out. What powers your daily decisions? Some of it may be commitments, but some of it may be identity. Is it for attention, the act of being seen as a god, or is it to serve your community? One is tied to power; the other is tied to service. I am always trying to do more for the community and others as I can. We are all selfish at times, and there’s good reason for that. First, you have to take care of yourself before you can even begin to help others.

I remember the stages of my youth: a punk rocker, and an IT nerd. I didn’t know what to follow, and my identity is STILL evolving… Can I call myself what I say I am? Am I a coach, father, or any other label I use, and am I GOOD at them? I don’t know, but time will tell. I keep showing up and will keep doing the things that align with the labels I use to describe myself. The motivation faded a long time ago and has become fully ingrained in my identity.

I think those truly doing amazing things have gone way beyond motivation, and what they pursue now is part of what they believe is their core identity. I am forever grateful running became a core component of how I see myself, but I am never locked to it. At some point, I will say: “I was once a runner…”

Thanks for reading my random thoughts on running and life. If you enjoyed it, please share these ideas! Let me know in the comments below why you keep showing up to do what you do. Is it part of your identity? Thanks!

Fear or Curiosity

There are two primary ways to handle most of life’s difficult situations: fear of the unknown or curiosity about what lies ahead. Curiosity is the better choice of the two, and there’s a good reason. It embodies a desire to understand how things work. The key is to reframe the internal dialogue when fear raises its voice. It’s okay to feel fear, but it’s important to learn to speak over it and start asking questions. Choosing curiosity as your default response is more beneficial than succumbing to fear, and the choice is yours! You have the power to act and speak to drown out the voice of fear in your mind.

Don’t get furious, get curious.

Asking a silly question or taking a risk has often paid off for me. Reflecting on the major triumphs in my life, each one seemed beyond my grasp until it became reality. It’s remarkable to consider that if you fixate on a goal in your mind and refuse to give up, you can make it your own.

The next time you’re confronted with a fear-filled thought, try asking questions instead. Cultivate curiosity about the situation and explore why you feel afraid. Fear is the default reaction of our minds. Thoughts like “I don’t want to look like a fool,” “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and “This will never work” often race through my head. Fears may hold some truth the first time, but they diminish with experience. Remember, you possess the innate ability to improve your circumstances. Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome; it’s part of our makeup. The challenge today is that social media often showcases only the highlights of people’s achievements, not their beginnings. But everyone starts somewhere. By asking the right questions, you can embark on a journey that shifts you away from a mindset dominated by fear.

I have a few things that can help you fight your fear with curiosity in your day-to-day life:

Stop comparing. Start somewhere, no matter how small, and make tiny progress. You will achieve anything you keep putting constant effort into EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just once in a while.

Seek out those at the top of their field and ask how they got started. People are doing what you want to do. Read their books, listen to their podcasts, and try to surround yourself with the tools to make progress. You are an average of the people you associate with most, be it real or fictitious.

Perfection is unattainable.  Those who overcome fear are those who are comfortable with the metaphorical punches—the setbacks and embarrassments. They are fine with appearing foolish, finishing last, lifting lighter weights, or struggling with a single chin-up or push-up. It’s the story you tell yourself that’s holding you back. You can acknowledge those thoughts, but then move on to start asking the right questions on how to change your current situation. If you do the work, you will eventually get to where you want to be.

Keep a journal of the little wins. Our minds love these small victories, no matter how minor they may be. It’s rewarding to the brain when we get things right. In an ultrarunning race, I break down each aid station into little checkpoints and do a mini-celebration once I reach them. I arrive, happy to see the aid station workers, eat some food, and celebrate the small triumph. Then, I shift focus and push myself to leave the aid station. This is a metaphor for success. On your road to victory, have a map or a planned outline of where you want to go, follow the route, enjoy the successes along the way, and then pause to look for what’s next. Shift your focus to the next target and keep moving forward.

In an ultra race, I am always curious about what’s coming up next on the course, whom I will meet, where they are from, and what they do for a living. How did they get to where they are now? Curiosity, not fear, drives me in these events. Fear cripples; fear diminishes you. It will get dark at times, but I am always curious about what the finish line will feel like and what food they will have at the end. I don’t memorize every detail as I head into a race because I enjoy the element of surprise. It’s that curiosity that can propel you as well if you keep seeking it in all your daily activities. Thank you for reading. What ignites curiosity in you during your adventures? Let me know in the comments below.