Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is success?

Merriam-Webster defines success as: a degree or measure of succeeding; a favorable or desired outcome. On the other hand it defines failure as:omission of occurrence or performance; specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action.  Although failing is a part of life, failure is my greatest fear. I know that it's impossible to succeed 100 percent of the time, but that doesn't stop me from setting lofty goals and sometimes not succeeding.

Success, I've discovered, is relative. One person's success isn't necessarily the same as another's. But for me, as an overachiever with absurdly high expectations of myself, it's become about redefining events I initially consider failure.

One of my life's biggest disappointment sounds silly to even put into writing.  When I was a freshman in college I tried out for cheerleader at West Virginia University. I worked really hard, and I thought my tryout went really well. The team had a 120 pound weight limit, and I was a solid 121 pounds of muscle (with six-pack abs I would KILL for today). After I didn't make the team I was devastated. I will never forget having to tell everyone on the floor in my dorm that I had failed. And when I called the coach to discuss the reasons for not making it, she indicated it was my weight. That one extra pound. Ouch.

As silly as that was, it was traumatic for me at the time. In retrospect I had a better college experience without being on the cheerleading team, but it was awful then. When I think about that as probably my biggest failure, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. And when I really analyze it I see it was really a success that I was able to accomplish so many other things in college - excellent grades, time with my friends, good jobs. These accomplishments may not have been achieved had my focus been on cheerleading.

I'm really hard on myself. I analyze everything and expect as close to perfection as possible. That's unrealistic and impossible - I get that. It doesn't stop me from expecting it. The last few months have been extremely difficult. We had a death in the family, I took the bar exam, and I lost my cat who was my faithful companion for 15 years. I've found myself in a funk, and while my expectations have remained high, I haven't been living my life at the excellent level I expect of myself.

One of the worst things is I haven't felt like running. I've been doing it, but I'm not logging nearly enough miles or pushing myself like I need to during marathon training. That led me to the decision earlier this week to switch from the full marathon to the half marathon in Pittsburgh. The idea to switch feels like failing, and again I have to analyze it and realize that is ridiculous. To be honest I really don't enjoy training for marathons. A half is a different animal, and I won't myself being a slave to long runs as I am marathon training. So I'm doing the half, and that's going to be great. It will keep me sane. And my sanity and maintaining joy in my running is a success.

I'm working on getting my groove back from this late winter funk. Running the half will allow me to actually enjoy my weekend runs without having to dig in for 18-20 mile runs and not enjoy the weekend. I can go to DC and run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler without stressing that I need to be getting in additional training miles. 

I don't know what it will take to get me to stop being hard on myself. Probably nothing at this point. But I am making a conscious effort to make choices that set me up for personal success. And success, after all, is what I make of it.  


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