While setting traditional goals, like running a PR or finishing a certain race, can provide motivation for your training, it’s also important to identify a greater purpose behind your running.
Step back and ask yourself why you run. Is it the cache of medals hanging on your wall that gives you meaning as a runner? Or do you find life in the day-in, day-out experience of training?
People often assume they’ll feel fulfilled when they achieve certain goals, like running that PR, but research suggests that it might be the other way around. A long-term study out of Harvard discovered people find happiness and achievement in activities they have an actual affinity for. Put simply, you’re more likely to realize success and fulfillment when you can identify a greater reason for what you’re doing.
To do this, you must take a bit of time to think about intentions—the “why” behind your training. Recent research reveals that exploring your personal values and how they connect to your goals has the power to improve performance beyond traditional goal setting strategies. These intentions remind you of the underlying purpose behind your running and provide inspiration for daily training. Start by asking yourself the following questions and determining how your answers connect to your running.
Crafting a “personal running mission statement” is a great way to capture your intentions in a succinct manner. This statement is centered specifically on your running practice, and it can inspire and energize you by emphasizing a process-focused attitude towards training.
Some mission statements will be a single sentence, while others may be as long as a paragraph. As you work to come up with this statement, reflect on the following questions and try listing the reasons you run.
Here’s mine: “To run for greater mental and physical balance in life. To carry forth the joy I gain from running into my other roles as mother, wife, daughter, friend and writer. To create meaningful connections through running and share the love of movement with others.”
Keep in mind that your sense of purpose may change depending on the stage of life you’re in, so it’s worth revisiting your mission statement every once in a while. Once you’ve pinned down a greater reason to run, think about how that fits with your stated goals for the season. Hopefully you’ll discover continuity between your goals and intentions for more fulfilling and successful running.
By Mackenzie L. Havey. Mackenzie Havey (née Lobby) writes about endurance sports, mind/body health and wellness, and adventure travel. Her work has appeared in Runner’s World, SELF, Triathlete, TheAtlantic.com, ESPN.com, the Star Tribune and elsewhere. In addition to completing 14 marathons and an Ironman triathlon, she is a USA Track & Field-certified coach, an instructor in the Physical Activity Program in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, and has done training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.