Sometimes I get disappointed in myself. I don’t improve fast enough in my training. I do dumb things that cause injuries which slow me down. I don’t reach all the goals I set when I want to reach them. These are all great reasons to just give up on athletic challenges and chill out on the couch, right?
In the middle of my first marathon, I discovered a perspective that helps keep me going in spite of obstacles. I separate goals from expectations.
A goal is a dream with a deadline… something you believe in and want to do by a certain date. This due date gets it off your wish list and onto an action plan that gets you moving forward. Without a measurable goal, nothing happens.
An expectation is an assumption that you will accomplish that goal when and where you planned. Expectations are dangerous because they do not allow for mistakes, injuries or acts of God. In fact, expectations can quickly become excuses when some external force affects your ability to reach your goal on time.
It’s a good thing my first marathon was tied to a fundraising effort or I might have quit when I injured my IT band 3 weeks before the race. Instead, I made adjustments to my expectations. I did not complete it in 5 hours, I ran it in 6. I did not run the whole distance, I took walk breaks. But I was able to cross that finish line.
So instead of getting down on myself for the slow time, I chose to acknowledge a major accomplishment, reset the goal and try again. I applied what I learned in the first try and trained harder and smarter the second time. I hit my 5-hour goal a year later in the hilly San Francisco marathon. I had visualized crossing that finish line in 5 hours, but I did not EXPECT it. In fact, an attitude of not expecting it helped me relax and focus on succeeding instead of failing.
Simply put, disappointment is where expectation exceeds results. Believing you can do it is important, but expecting to win every time is a setup for a letdown.