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That Moment When You Question Your Goals

Baltimore Marathon

2013 Baltimore Marathon finishers medal

Mile 18.

I’m deep in the heart of the most difficult portion of the Baltimore Marathon. My pre-race plan has worked to perfection, with two hours and thirty minutes of patient, steady running behind me. Just ahead though, I’m about to face multiple lengthy inclines, the kind that cut into your pace and can punish a runner late in the race. My legs feel good but I’m not looking forward to these climbs.

Every runner has to endure moments like this. It comes with the territory. There is no way I’m stopping with my goal of a sub-four hour marathon clearly in reach. I’ve been intensively training for the last four months and I’m not letting all that effort go to waste.

As a former psychology major, I’ve always been intrigued by our mind. What is it about the circumstances of the moment that trigger unusual, creative or bizarre thoughts? We think of things at the strangest of times. And as I began a slow and arduous climb in mile 19, I experienced this phenomenon, thinking of something I hadn’t dwelt on in a long time.

“Why am I doing this?”

Ever ask this question when you are working towards a goal? Especially when the difficulty of the journey discourages you? Or perhaps when you are wondering, with all the work still ahead, whether the goal is actually worth it?

Does rethinking the “Why” question make you doubt what you are doing? Does it bring more fear than calm?

It did for me, for about half a mile. And the thought occurred to me for a brief moment in that span of the race, “I’m never doing this again! This is insane! What am I really gaining from punishing myself this way?”

Then, as if a voice inside snapped me back from my downward spiral of negativity, I remembered, “This isn’t punishment at all. It’s a blessing.”

It’s a blessing the pounds on my body that have been shed since I started running.

It’s a blessing my blood pressure has fallen and my stress levels have decreased.

It’s a blessing I have more energy for my daily activities.

It’s a blessing how this hobby has shaken me out of the life malaise I was in three years ago.

It’s a blessing the discipline I’ve developed through training and how that discipline has spilled over into other areas of my life.

It’s a blessing how the achievement of my running goals has given me the confidence to pursue other ventures like blogging.

It’s a blessing my running and focus on staying fit is inspiring others in my family to do the same. (Mrs. Luke1428 and my oldest son run their first 5k this coming Saturday.)

What’s your move in that moment when you question your goals? Do you give up and say, “Forget it…It’s just not worth it!” Are you only focused on the negatives of the moment and the pain you are experiencing?

Or do all the reasons you began the journey in the first place come flooding back into your mind? Can focusing on the benefits and the progress being made fire you up again? Are you able to picture yourself victorious, having accomplished the goal?

I chose to think about the blessings. And after the final difficult climb was conquered near the end of mile 22, my mind had already transitioned to what my next post-marathon running goal would be. For now, that will have to be listed as TBA…

I’ll provide more race details later in the week on how I reached my goal and ran this marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes. I had to get this out of my head as I’m still processing the events of this past weekend. Hopefully it has been an encouragement to those of you who are facing a moment of struggle. There are positive reasons you set out on the journey in the first place. Remember back to those and focus on the progress that has been made, not the pain and difficulty of the current circumstances.

The thoughts you dwell on in that moment of doubt can alter the course of the journey.

How do you handle that moment when the mind questions your goal?

Next Post: 5 Purchases I Refuse to Skimp On

Prior Post: I Need Patience Now!


Here are a few Luke1428 posts that were mentioned in a recent blog carnival:

“Our Nightmare on Rental Street: Evicting a Tenant” at Mo Money Mo Houses and at My Personal Finance Journey

“Our Nightmare on Rental Street: Evicting a Tenant” – Yakezie Carnival at Rather Be Shopping

“Four Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working” at Mom and Dad Money

Thank you to the carnival hosts for including my articles.

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  1. Charles@Gettingarichlife says

    Without challenges achieving your goal isn’t as sweet. I do need to get back in shape, I blame the wife for making me too happy.

  2. Student Debt Survivor says

    I have definitely questioned myself half-way through a goal sometimes. Most of the time I try to wait a little bit and see if my feelings change. Sometimes (long-term goals) seem overwhelming in the moment, but after a good night’s sleep I can see things more clearly. I also try not to give up on goals without talking to the bf or family first. Sometimes I need other peoples’ input to see how well (or not well, I’m doing). Congrats on the marathon!

    • That’s a great point! It’s a valuable exercise to be patient and give yourself some time to let the emotion clear. Most times when I sleep on something I feel a lot different about it the next day.

  3. I’ve faced plenty of moments like that. The big things in the last few years have been going through the CFP coursework and working on my blog. With both, there were (are) times where I questioned why I was doing it and wouldn’t it be easier to just give up. What I’ve learned is that it’s those moments that are the exact wrong time to give something up. It’s in those moments that you have to plow through and keep moving forward so that you can get to a more positive or at least neutral mindset where you can fairly evaluate things. Making rash decisions in a moment of frustration almost always leads to regret.

  4. Shannon Ryan says

    Congratulations, Brian! Oh yes, there are definitely times when I’ve run marathons in the past where I have wondered why am I doing this! And there are times when I just want to splurge on a vacation now, rather than save for it. But then I think of “why” I do this and my reasons for running and being responsible with my money are strong enough to keep me pushing forward. Can’t wait to hear more about your race.

  5. I question my fitness goals every single time I wake up early to go to the gym. “Why am I getting out of bed before the sun is out? Why can’t I just stay in and sleep a little more?” I’m still struggling to overcome this, so this post was very motivating. Great job, Brian!

    • Haha…I’ve had those thoughts many times. For me, the progress I’ve seen has been the biggest motivator to keep going. And now that I’ve put so much into my health and fitness, I don’t want to give all that up and go back to how I was. That also keeps me motivated.

  6. Holly Johnson says

    It’s probably normal to question your goals from time to time. I know that we question our goals all the time. At least it means we’re thinking about what we really want out of life and that’s a step in the right direction even if we second-guess ourselves from time to time.

  7. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    This post reminds me SO much of our debt payoff journey. It’s like a marathon, in that we have a lot of miles in which to say “What in the he__ are we doing? Too much work here, why are we punishing ourselves?” and all of those other messages you described. But in the end, like you, we realize that there is a blessing in all of this; the blessing of no longer having our money control us, but instead, having us control our money. 🙂

  8. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says

    Congrats on your marathon time! That’s really an accomplishment most people will never achieve. It is so much easier to give up when the going is tough. I think asking yourself how you’d feel later if you quit is a good motivation to keep going forward.

  9. Kyle James says

    “The thoughts you dwell on in that moment of doubt can alter the course of the journey.”

    So true. For me, sometimes it is just matter of clearing all thoughts in the moment of doubt. Especially when it comes to exercise and conditioning which I have gotten fairly serious about the last 6 months. The body can do so much more than the brain thinks, so get your brain out of the equation!

  10. Congrats on your finish!!! I think about how blessed I am to be running all the time when I get cranky…and I’m only doing 4.5 miles on the beach!!! It’s all relative I guess. I think you constantly have to check in with yourself to see the why’s of why you are doing something. It’s easy to forget those why’s.

  11. I think it’s natural to question our goals especially when we’re in the middle of a tough stretch. I think that reminding yourself of the end goal and why you’re doing it, but another thing that can be key is breaking down the goal into smaller goals. My guess is that around the time you started going through this, you started looking not only at the 26.2 mile endpoint, but at a few markers in between. Each time you cross one, you hit a small milestone, giving you new motivation to hit the next one. That works for me a lot, anyways.

    • That’s a great point and it’s exactly what I do in a race. I try to break a long race like this down into segments, either by mileage or by time. I was really focused on getting to mile 21 in three hours. I fell a few tenths of a mile short but realized at that point, barring an injury, I would reach my goal. That was a good feeling.

  12. I think questioning your goals is a good thing. Unfortunately, the worst time to do so is usually when we end up doing it – when the going gets tough. I definitely sometimes question different goals and things I’m pursuing, but oftentimes it does come full circle to the reasons why I originally pursued those goals. I blog to make extra money; I work out to get in better shape; I rent out part of my house to diversify income streams and learn more about being a landlord. All these things come with challenges, but usually when I remind myself of the reasons I pursued the goal in the first place I am more encouraged than anything.

    Congrats on finishing the race and it’s definitely encouraging to hear about others reaching their goals.

    • “I think questioning your goals is a good thing.” Yes…I agree with that DC. In order to make sure the goals still make sense, we must go through a continuing evaluation process. This also helps keep us from veering off the path with our goals.


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