Then, what.

Why? What? How?

“Why?” is the first question you should answer before signing up for an event. I wrote about the importance of answering that question in a previous post. The next question to answer is “What?”. What do you feel about the experience? 

Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and transport yourself to some time after a successful event. All the training, planning, and thinking about it are over. What do you feel about it…not, what do you hope to feel about it…what do you feel about it now that it’s over and in the past? 

If your answer is tied to the excitement and fulfillment of crossing the finish line, checking a box next to your adventure ‘to do’ list, then you may find yourself unsatisfied in the long term. The euphoria of the finish, and even the associated sense of accomplishment, can fade quickly. 

The answer to ‘What?” is the persistent psychological and emotional reward of the complete experience. What you feel about your accomplishment in the weeks, months, and years after the event is the true outcome; it shouldn’t be tied to a singular feature of the event such as finishing. Otherwise the planning, training, and the event itself will have been in pursuit of a single moment. 

What you hope to gain from the event is something intrinsic to the journey itself rather than its culmination. It may be the joy of planning the adventure, the camaraderie and feeling of community as you share the experience with others, the confidence gained from persisting, the pride of setting an example for your children, etc. With the answer made clear, you can view the event as the last step in a journey, which puts all the preparation and execution within a psychological framework to help you to a successful completion that has long term meaning. 

The answers to 'why are you doing this?' and 'what do you expect to feel about it later?' may be closely related or surprisingly different. The important thing is that you've done the work to know and understand those answers. And, be open to the possibility that you can’t find an answer to what that will give you longterm fulfillment. In that case, you might consider not signing up for the event.

Once you can articulate what you expect to feel and gain from the accomplishment, identify the components of training, planning, and racing that contribute most to feeding those feelings and manifesting those gains. Recognize and celebrate those components as you train, plan, and race. When you cross the finish line, or even if you don't, you'll have a deeply meaningful and lasting experience to recall with happiness.

The next installment in this three part series will explore the ‘how?’ of a successful journey.