Often, we come across the adage, “Find your passion, and you will find success,” a phrase that is both comforting and inspiring. Yet, is this dictum entirely accurate? Is passion all it takes to taste the sweetness of success? My recent experience on a running trail made me question this conventional wisdom and delve deeper into the other elements crucial to achieving success.
I love to run. Every weekend I go for a long run at the gym. Last Sunday because of the beautiful weather outside, I opted to go outdoors instead. I chose a 3-mile trail that I had not visited before. It is a well paved, even trail through scenic, wooded landscape accessible by climbing down a rather long stretch of steep slope. Trust me, the slope is an important detail in the near future.
About a mile into the track, it slowly became apparent to me that running on natural ground was way harder than running on a treadmill. Perhaps my body was not used to this because I began feeling exhausted earlier than usual and for a brief moment I considered walking the rest of the distance. However, I quickly dismissed that thought before it overtook me.
Instead, I decided to strategize and focus only on reaching the farthest visible point at a time. Every time I realized that goal, I set a new one. It was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment every time I met my objective. This positive reinforcement helped fuel my motivation to complete the 3-mile stretch.
By the time I finished, it was almost impossible for me to stand up straight. With racing heart and near trembling legs, I stooped over while gasping to catch my breath. Pounding heartbeat and breathlessness was all that I could hear or feel.
When I had caught my breath a little, I made for the exit of the trail. That is when it dawned upon me that I had to climb up the significantly steep slope to get back to my car. The feeling of accomplishment quickly transformed into a feeling of misery. Had I had a bottle of water with me, I might have considered taking a few more minutes at the base of the hill. But I didn’t, and I could feel my legs and stomach cramp up because of dehydration. There was nothing to do but climb this hill.
Once again I tried strategizing by looking to the farthest visible point and setting that as my goal. Surprisingly, however, this time the strategy did not work. It made me feel more exhausted and even frustrated. To my exhausted body and mind, that long slope felt just way too hard to climb.
On the verge of giving up, I slowed down and looked down at my feet. I focused on following my feet move forward one step at a time. It was surprising to realize that once I shifted my focus to the much smaller target of each step, the gradient of the slope ceased to matter. It almost felt like walking on a flat surface. And one step at a time, I eventually reached the top of the hill.
The first thing I realized is that setting attainable goals truly helps in accomplishing our objectives. Along with being attainable, the goals need to be in the context of the task and our ability to perform them. Early in my hike, aiming for long distances over an even, paved trial was viable. However, when it came to climbing the hill at the end of my run, focusing on only the next step forward was the best way for me to reach the top.
At a slightly more profound level, I realized that while my passion for running will always get me started on a runner’s mission, proper goal setting and the grit to persevere, will ultimately determine it’s successful completion.
Teach your children that passion alone can only initiate the process of undertaking a challenging mission. Setting and accomplishing bite-sized goals are a prerequisite to sustain the motivation necessary to continue with the mission. More importantly, when the journey becomes excruciating, as it sometimes will, the ability to focus on the present and persevere through the current moment is absolutely essential to accomplish the task.
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