Do you dream great things for yourself? Do you dream of running faster, more effortlessly or feeling exhilarated while you run? If you do, GREAT! Dream goals are the very strong visions you have for yourself. Dream goals set the emotional stage for your passion and guide your true values. By acknowledging your dreams you are opening yourself up to vast possibilities of your true potential. Dreams are often private and personal, and they are also very strong. Dreams are the huge positive hopes we hold in our hearts that help us create the sort of life we want to live. The pursuit of dreams is the real path for many people, yet often we ignore our strongest voice out of a fear that we are not worthy, others will think us ridiculous or that it may never come true. Our dreams define the true values by which we want to live our lives. If you dream about completing your first 10k race, you are telling yourself that you value your health and vitality, that you believe you can do something you once thought was impossible.
Many people spend their lives only seeing the goals not met, obsessing about what they want or do not yet have, and pinning their hopes on extrinsic desires, such as personal best times, medals and wins. Wait a second: isn’t this what our society likes us to believe about everything? We will be happy when we have the shiny new kitchen, the luxury vehicle, the dream vacation? We are led to believe that the gains of these extrinsic rewards validate our existence, our path, or at the very least, the vast amounts of time and effort we put into our work and training. Our focus on goals can cause our path to become narrow and it creates an obstacle to enabling our day to day positive practices. Whatever outside rewards we have heaped our hopes upon, we get stuck there, in the messy frustrating anxiety of it all—the fear of not achieving this thing we want so strongly we can taste it-- which leads us to the endless questioning of our abilities and every aspect of our life.
By all means set your goals. Goal setting has been proven to create success and a sense of purpose and well being. Working step by step towards something we care about is rewarding and fulfilling. But remember that your goal is just that: something that you are ‘working’ towards. It’s the ‘working’ part that you take to heart, and that each day allows you to validate more of your dream, celebrate another part of life that you value and takes you closer to the person you want to be, the life you want to live.
Use your dreams for yourself to guide your goals. Write your dreams down in a journal, on your computer or on your hand. Share your dreams with supporters if you want, but most importantly, own them for yourself. Using your biggest dreams, create goals that fall under that dream umbrella. If your dream is to ‘run a marathon’ then even if you can’t run a marathon this year, you can do things that you value that support your dream. You can set goals to increase your long runs, to run a half marathon this year, join a clinic, or eat well. Focus on what you can do today and decide to do it to the best of your ability right now.
Pursue your dreams. This is what will create your greatest experiences, and living each and every one of those moments is the greatest reward!
It is important to notice the syntax of that quote, particularly the profound nature of the ending: ‘begin it.’ Too often today, we read a simplified version of this quote which encourages us blandly to go after our dreams, or the one I find confounds me every time: ‘If you can dream it, do it'. I can dream about being an astronaut. Those quotes you see printed on journals, pencils and make up bags, are nice but not particularly helpful.
I have circled around the Goethe quote for years in my path as an athlete. After I graduated from University in 1990 with my first degree in English, all I really wanted was to be a distance runner. I packed my things and left Nova Scotia to begin a life of training and high performance in Victoria and Vancouver. I have stumbled, persevered, soared and crashed over and again but never for a moment regretted my path. It takes a certain amount of boldness to go after a big dream. Often it means overcoming doubts and personal barriers we have about the meaning of success. A lot of times it merely means saying yes to a passion, and resisting an easier path. And as anybody who has ever gone out on a limb, or jumped in with both feet knows, unless you have the audacity to actually go for something, you never even get an inkling of the wonderful things that lay in store for you.
My high performance career is now a stage of my life from which I have moved on. I can honestly say that I have a lot of stars in my life, but my new dreams are still in the hatching stage. Small beginnings are meaningful and give me purpose: one of these is my girls run club Up and Running, where I am coaching run skills and sharing the positive effects of fun physical activity. Running for a happy hour with kids every Saturday morning is a wonderful way to coach at the grassroots level.
Below, I want to share you a memory about the small steps I had to take during a very intense part of the late stages of my career. This is a journal entry from 2006, my last year attending World Championships, the year before I turned 40 and thereby began the small beginning of moving on from high performance and full time training as an athlete. I want to share this with other parents, and women who have come through pregnancy, athletes who are recovering from injury and setback, or anyone starting up a new path, and who know that feeling of needing to re build, or to begin following their dreams in sport again.
Since the birth of my second child last year, my life is again gradually re-focussing from the microscopic newborn stages of motherhood. New schedules have been formed, sleep deprivation has been survived (and will be still!), hormones and tendons have rebounded and my own dreams have resurfaced and begun to burn again. Each pregnancy presented me with over a year and a half away from sport and with both, the return to competition has been a joyful and meaningful experience for me. Looking back, those breaks from sport have also probably contributed to my longevity as an athlete, providing me with a necessary physical and mental hiatus in a twenty year career.
After my children were born, I did not rush getting back into sport; I let my body tell me when it was ready, and I didn’t push my goal setting, nor my training. I allowed myself to train with a relaxed and joyful attitude, which only reinforced my belief that running and being athletic are a huge and integral part of my life. After my younger years of intensity and obsessiveness, there has been a relaxing quality to my training.
Obviously, having children has changed my priorities, the largest one being that I am now not the main focus of care in my life—my children are. After Maia was born in 2000 this was actually a relief to me, to be able to put myself second for a change, to stop obsessing about sleep and rest and performing. I have often felt that I am lucky to have a flexible career that I can pursue while being a mother. Being an athlete is not merely a hobby for me, it is my job, and is a job I love. Being an athlete allows me to achieve, and to be ambitious outside of my desire to be a nurturing and empathic parent. I also get to hang out with other ambitious people. Excellence is contagious. Passion is rewarding and when I start working towards my goals, the path is nothing short of inspiring.
There has been some serendipity to becoming a parent. The more I have relaxed into the busy routine that is life with two young children, and the more I have accepted that sleep deprivation and lack of personal time are going to be the norm for a few more years, the clearer my own vision for myself has shined through. While I have lessened my attachment to my athletic goals, the dreams and goals stay clear, and their meaning shines through much brighter.
When I look back upon this memory, what strikes me is that I really didn’t have much of a plan for what the details would look like. I just knew deep in me, that I wanted to train for the World Duathlon Championships that year, which were in Canada. It was what I wanted to do, and I just began to train again towards that goal, and I began to figure it out day by day, and week by week, which is sort of how things go when you have babies around. But by beginning to go towards what is meaningful, you set something in motion, and like all things in life, the ensuing adventure-the successes, the setback, the great days and the hard days—it takes on a life of its own and eventually becomes the story of what you are.
Run For Joy!
(Photography credits Kim Jay)
Writing about the art of moving well and the lived experience of a life in sport.