Pursue what catches your heart, not what catches your eyes.
―Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I ran my first race on Thursday. First two, actually; back to back. Though, I’d be hard-pressed to say I was actually racing during the second. The first race found me with about a mile where I was alone, in my head, without a target to pass up or a lead to maintain. It was in these moments that the work came to bear.
Let me back up. On Tuesday, a friend and I ran 9 miles in preparation for race day. Get some miles under our feet and have a better feel for the distance. It was due to this run that I was far from ready for the Thursday race. My calves were still in recovery.
And so, it was during this lonely mile that I began to feel my body break down. The weariness of the distance. My energy slipping. My body feeling heavy. My muscles groaning under the effort of the next step, and the next, and the next. If you run distance, you know the feeling. And the major thought that kept creeping up was a wish that I was finished, that this journey be done.
Except, that’s not why I run. I didn’t sign up for the 15k because I wanted to be done. I signed up for the 15k because I wanted to run 15 kilometers. I wanted to know what that felt like. During this lonely mile, I fought to get out of this idea of being done, because I wasn’t done yet. I still had a little over a mile left, and I wasn’t going to crash in that time. I was going to finish strong.
Too often, your idea of fulfillment is based on the construct of acquisition: “the more I gain, the more fulfilled I will be.” You work, not because you enjoy the work, but because you acquire something at the end: a medal, a certification, a paycheck. You’re so focused on what you can gain, that the time you spend doing the work is lost, thrown out, unfulfilling. You do the work because you must, in order to get what you want.
Fulfillment. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” When you lose sight of the work and try to jump to the end, when you’re focused entirely on the goal and put little effort toward anything else on the path, you arrive at the end with one question: “What next?” Perhaps there is nothing left. Perhaps there is another goal. But if you jump from one “What next?” to the next, you find you miss out on quite a lot that your life could have offered.
You have your goals, and you have your work. Find presence in your work, and you’ll find the goals will move of their own accord, taking you farther and farther in whatever discipline you work. And all the while, you find fulfillment in the moment. In the now. Not in some preconceived future.
Do the work. And remain present in it.
As far as the race is concerned, I have no idea what place I finished. But I finished. I ran the final mile or so with presence, soaking up the wind and the rain and feeling the pavement as I pushed it away with one step, and then the next. The race didn’t matter. The running did. And I feel far more fulfilled for it.
Featured and Header Image by