Managing Expectations

I was out for a run this past weekend with an old friend that I hadn’t run with in years. Because of the lack of time spent between our runs together, there was plenty to talk about. We spanned many topics throughout the course of our 9 mile conversation. There were two in particular that really had me thinking and I thought would be great to share. One was the phenomenon of nervousness before racing. (I’ll tackle that another day.) The other topic  stemmed from the idea of pre-race jitters: the need to properly manage our expectations.

We live in a world surrounded by social media outlets that constantly bombard us with information about others. It’s now crept into our running, and has a firm grip on many runners’ consciousness through outlets like Garmin Connect and Strava. While these platforms do provide many positive, networking, and motivational benefits, they also present the same problem to our running that Facebook and Instagram have presented to our everyday lives. The problem being that the clear reality of what we are seeing from others never tells their entire story. If we are not careful, we begin to compare ourselves and our realities to the false or incomplete realities we see online. When this happens, the expectations we should carry for ourselves become distorted and inappropriate. It becomes easy to get down on ourselves for not doing that same things that we see others accomplishing.

To bring it back to the friend I was running with… He’s primarily a triathlete, and spends a lot of time tracking and sharing information on Strava. He began comparing his output to another local triathlete, citing the intense workout schedule he’d seen from him on Strava. Both guys are teachers and dads, so if you’re not careful with your thought process, you might think they’d have the same opportunity for training. Until you dig a little further into reality, the reality that’s NOT shared on Strava or Instagram. You see, my running buddy that day is a father of a toddler, while his counterpart has kids that are much older and can do things more independently like feed and clothe themselves. If you have kids of your own, you know how great an advantage this is. While both are teachers, my running buddy teaches elementary phys ed and is on his feet on a hard gym floor just about all day long, while the gentlemen he was comparing himself to teaches high school computer classes. There’s a pretty distinct advantage to the latter athlete when it comes to the ability to rest and recover from morning workouts during their working days. As the entire reality became clearer, it was pretty easy to see why one triathlete is able to have a greater training output than the other.

But are their training outputs really different at all? That’s a matter of perspective, and a pretty darn important one. Let me explain…

Although the two gentlemen described above lead different lives and follow different training schedules, they both have something very, very important in common. They both work extremely hard to maximize the time they have each day to squeeze in as much training as possible to continually better themselves, and they put forth their best efforts when training and competing. At the end of the day, each one of them can look in the mirror and honestly say, “I did everything I could today.”

This is the perspective that matters most, and it’s not just limited to running. We should carry the same perspective as parents and professionals as well. We all have different capacities to care for our children and grind it out at work based on a number of variables. Parents and coworkers are not created equal, but all have an equal opportunity to give their best efforts each and every day.

I wish I could tell you exactly what giving that effort looks like, but that’s going to be different for everyone. For me, it looks like working through my lunch most days, putting down my phone to go play Legos with my kids, and hitting the floor to stretch while watching some TV in the evening instead of just vegging on the couch. All of those little details add up to create the sum of “I did everything I could today.”

We all lead extremely unique lives, and the expectations we carry for ourselves should be differentiated to align with them. Spend less time following the running (or parenting, or output at work) that others are doing, and more time reflecting on your own, looking for ways to best use the time that YOU have each day. And if you’ve managed to make the most of the day you’ve been given, I can’t think of any better reason to be happy.


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