Fall in love with the process rather than the product.
This quote comes straight from Atomic Habits. Although I knew of the book existence in advance, it was later (repeatedly) recommended by a reliable friend.
And I must admit, I was dismissive of it at first. In my mind, I had already labeled it as ”yet another book” about good habits. So far, I had enough about happiness and self-help this year, and it is just April — I thought to myself.
I just felt that I was already doing a decent job around habits. But above all, I believe we all reach a certain threshold where we should ask ourselves if more information is the answer, or it is just a matter of sitting down and doing work.
If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.
—— Derek Sivers
Long story short, I convinced myself that, at least, it would potentially become an entertaining companion for my commute. Reluctantly, I bought the audiobook.
Oh, boy, I was wrong. Two chapters in, I secured the Kindle version. Next thing you know, I was hooked and taking notes like crazy.
These lines are not meant to be a comment around the book. The last thing I’ll say about the book itself is that if you have to read a single thing about habits, please, make yourself a favor and get a copy of Atomic Habits.
By now, you might be wondering what habit-forming books have to do with running a marathon under three hours.
Well, turns out, it does. It made me realize that I had set an empty goal for myself, and I was actually not “in love” with the process itself.
In particular, there were four key ideas around a goal-oriented mindset that made me realize that I was walking the wrong path.
- Winners and losers share the same goals, thus themselves goals must not be what differentiate them.
- A goal is a momentary change, then achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. It does not have a long-lasting effect.
- By nature, goals restrict happiness: first, because they foster the idea of continuously deferring happiness until the next milestone. Second, it allocates success to the binary resolution of achieving it or not instead of “enjoying the ride”.
- Finally, goals are at odds with long term progress. In other words, people revert their habits once the goal has been accomplished.
Along these lines, the book presented an example that really resonated with me.
Runners work hard for months, but as soon as they cross the finish line, they stop training.
In short, this is the story of my (running) life. Train hard, cross the line, stop running for six months. Then, suddenly, get excited about another race and start training like crazy again.
Check out the video above ☝️ and see for yourself what happens around the second 10. There is this neat yearly bar chart, featuring the monthly millage. Before August… nothing. Emptiness. Not a single mile logged. I just crossed Barcelona’s marathon finish line the previous year and suddenly stopped training.
A systems-first mentality beats a goal-oriented mindset.
On top of that, I was also seeing diminishing returns from my training. After a good race in Valencia, I couldn’t beat my mark in Sevilla. The combination of a huge drop in training volume after Valencia, a lack of motivation, and seeing my results flatten out, just gave me more
excuses reasons to make a decision around the whole sub3 edifice that, truth be told, I had already made.
Last week I wrote a healthy exercise around prioritization and regaining focus of my side-projects. I really can’t tell if it is worth reading. At least, it helped me realize that I had reached a point where I had to start saying no to some things in order to keep moving forward.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to picking up the battles you know you can win — or at least the ones you will enjoy fighting for.
I’m not sure if I would have eventually crossed the sub3 mark, but I do know for sure that I wasn’t having fun along the way. The entire venture was founded around an empty goal, to win a self-constructed game.
What I wanted though, was to just keep playing the game. Hence after a second failed attempt, I think I just had enough. And for the time being, I’ll shift my training-related efforts towards mobility, flexibility, and strength, and most importantly, enjoy the run 🏃♂️.