I started running again (yes, I realize I've mentioned "restarting running" several times here) but this time it's for real. Last week I entered this half marathon so now I'm on the hook to get in shape.
On one of my longer runs a couple of Saturdays ago with a friend of mine, we were talking about how it's weird that one run could feel fantastic and then two days later feel like you've never ran a step in your life. How we could average a faster pace for some seven mile runs than we could on a three mile run earlier in the week. How those slower runs can become super discouraging.
Having started running again, my mind will start to slip into my own highlight reel. I haven't trained seriously in about five years (pretty much quit after a bad experience in the 2010 Chicago Marathon), so I've lost most of anything I worked to build in my years of running in high school, college and first couple of years out of school. So now, when I go out for a run and have a hard time just finishing a run or struggle at a pace-per-mile for three miles that I would've found laughable a few years ago, it's easy to get discouraged.
If I let it, every run could be described as "terrible" if I continued to hold myself to those same standards that I used to.
Instead, I try to benchmark against my current situation now. I'm not running 50, 60, or 70 miles a week. I don't have a team depending on me to get in shape. Success for me isn't being the fastest person right now. Success in this season of my life is getting in good enough shape to complete (not win...just complete) a half marathon. So, with that in mind, just seeing incremental progress week-to-week is good enough. I may be running 8:30 miles on my runs instead of 6:30s, but I'm able to go just a little longer every week. Right now, that's success.
This is even true professionally. There are times when I manage campaigns or client projects that see great wins and results beyond what I've ever worked on. Every once in a while, I may have a campaign that goes very well on paper, but feel somewhat let down that it didn't go as well as that one campaign.
It's hard to remember that they're called case studies for a reason.
It's impossible for every project to become a case study. Every run can't be the fastest one. Just because they weren't the best ever doesn't mean they weren't successful.
Some work projects may have budget constraints or variables out of my control to make them match (or beat) that last project. But that may not make them any less successful.
Some runs are done on a miserably hot day. Those days aren't conducive for personal records but I could still be proud of the effort in spite of conditions.
Success isn't doesn't always involve the biggest number. The highest number or retweets. The fastest time. The most money. More often than not, success is factoring in our current situation and knowing we did everything we could with what we had in that moment.
Does that mean I'm advocating for complacency or mediocrity? Not at all. But, I'm learning to not be discouraged when I don't always do something worthy of the highlight reel. I'm learning to look at the bigger picture.
In a social media world, it's easy to get caught up in a comparison trap. Sometimes the most discouraging comparison traps are ones we get caught up in with ourselves.