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Category: stoicism

Manage Focus vs Time

We are in an attention economy. Endless things are fighting for your attention. Phones are dinging, inboxes are constantly filling, and there’s a billboard or commercial everywhere you look. There’s even a career called “influencer”, whose main skill is grabbing and holding your attention. That is a tough skill to master and cultivate.

What my head feels like with everything that must be done.

That’s the issue I have with technology. We’re too connected and attached; everybody is available via text message. Overbearing parents track their child’s location in REAL TIME with cell phones in 3rd grade. I know. I just picked up a “smartphone” for my daughter, but I’m trying to make it a dumb phone by removing all apps and social media that might steal her focus. There’s a saying, “May you live in interesting times…” Well, it’s TOO interesting. There’s too much going on, too much news, and too much spam. That’s why this quote got to me: “Don’t manage your time, manage your focus.” That is critical. If you don’t manage your focus, someone or something else will.

If you are not planning your day or structuring it meaningfully, then you will be subject to whatever way the pop-up-driven wind blows. You have to focus on the intention for each day and the following day, week, month, and year. Amazing things happen with intention, not magic. There’s a plan to do something great, write that book, run that race, achieve something great that you sat down and thought about for a minute. Otherwise, text messages and nonsense will fill your time, and then fill your life.

It’s hard to get away from the distraction of all the tech.

That’s part of where racing and running made a difference in my life. If you’re doing it right, your workout will disconnect you from all that. Getting a pop-up while running, biking, or lifting is much harder. The intention to work out removes you from distractions. That’s what I love about it. It’s the intention to travel to the trail, gym, or park, AND be present in that moment. Sit with discomfort and do something HARD that I enjoy as I age. You will say, “Well I just have too many other commitments that get in my way”. Are they, or are you just not managing your focus? That’s what I tell myself: do I not have the time, or do I not have focus? Ask yourself that next time you’re overwhelmed. This quote says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Focus on health if you feel like crap, otherwise, everything else will be difficult. Focus on family. If your closest relationships are toxic, it will cause stress and unhappiness. Finally, focus on work. It will always be there, and we must pay the bills. You will not die with zero, but you could die with a lot of regret for what you didn’t do. I regret focusing on too much stuff that should never have been done in the first place.

Thanks for reading!

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!