When I didn’t achieve a personal goal, it only made me work harder

Typically, my schedule involves 5-6 days of running per week and, because I’m goal-oriented, I’m always training for something. Recently, I put all my effort into training for a half marathon I’d done in the past. The course, volunteers, and organization are all fantastic so I knew by doing this one again, there would be no unwelcome surprises. My training plan wasn’t any more difficult than plans I’ve done in the past and having run more than twice the distance, the course shouldn’t have been an issue, either. Overall, I felt stronger, faster, and more confident than any other race while in training. However, when the day came, I tried very hard to keep my normal routine with sleep, food, and all the things necessary to run the race. The weather was especially humid that morning and though I’d run some of my better races in the heat, something felt off. My stomach began to twist and churn before we ever got out the door and as I toed the starting line, my legs suddenly felt like lead — which is not a good thing when you’re about to use them for a couple hours.

About halfway through, which is notoriously called “Kiss the Bricks” on the Indianapolis Speedway track, I gradually slowed my pace, stopping completely, and finally, tanked. No matter what I did from that moment on, there was no coming back from this wall. My body had given up for no reason I could put my finger on. I mean, I prepared for this, right? No matter what I did, or how hard I pushed, I couldn’t find the gusto to move my feet faster or quell the fire in my lungs. The frustration of feeling out of control only made me slower and more conscious of the fast-moving feet all around me.

By the end of the race, my time wasn’t nearly what I trained, or hoped, for. I was so disappointed in myself, I cried just after crossing the finish line. Looking back, I know I did all I could at the time. It happens to the fastest runners, and that day just wasn’t my day. After I calmed and the heat sickness subsided, I realized that this isn’t the first time I’ve failed at a goal and certainly wouldn’t be the last. There are always going to be obstacles, like weather or weird body things or nerves, so all I can do is focus on what I can control. I may not have trusted the training like I should have, had as much water as planned, or a number of other things within my control that I didn’t accept at the time.

It’s the same with writing. Working as ghostwriter and editor for various outlets for nearly a decade, I never stopped writing for myself so that one day, I’d be able to sell books of my own. Over the years, I received a multitude of rejections, thus leaving me in a heap on the bathroom floor more times than I can count. If I’d given up when the disappointment first set in, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Facing rejection and disappointment, no matter the goal, are critical to strengthening the “determination muscle” as well as character-building. Without them, you may never know what true success feels like and even if you do, you might not appreciate it the way you would if you’d experienced more turbulent times first. I didn’t understand any of this until I surpassed some monumental hurdles, therefore reinforcing my need to keep going even when all feels lost.

In having a bad race or receiving a rejection of any kind, I learned what kind of person I am. I know I’m not a quitter but in dealing with deeply personal goals and having failed many, many times, I also know it’s not just about perseverance; it’s about learning what went wrong so I can work harder to reach those goals the next time.

When you don’t achieve a goal you worked your butt off for, don’t treat it as a failure. Instead, think of it as an uncomfortable lesson in how to be better. When you work really hard for something and it doesn’t happen, this kind of thinking isn’t always going to be easy. But by not giving up, you’re already a shinier version of yourself than you realize. Basically, if I’ve got this, you do, too.