How Focusing on the Finish Line Rather Than the Goal Leads to Incontinence

The Race

It was a crisp fall morning that welcomed us as we arrived at check-in. There was excitement in the air as the crowd readied for the run.

I eagerly accepted my T-shirt, a symbol of the work I had put into training. Using the popular The Couch-to-5K plan, I had prepared for this day, and I was ready to run.

As the race began, I was full of enthusiasm. Accomplishing goals gives me a thrill, and now I could say I was running one of them.

As we progressed, I foolishly began to observe the other runners. I took particular note of those going faster than me. Elderly people were even passing me, and that just didn't seem right. I quickly started to get tired, and I began to freak out.

What if I can't finish? What if I have to stop and walk? That would be a failure of the worst proportion.

At some point, I began to cry. I was in pain, I was panicking, and I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. My husband, who has the ability to run much faster than me, faithfully stayed beside me. "Just keep going, just keep moving," he encouraged.

Plodding along, we eventually neared what I assumed to be the final portion of the course. My eyes brightened at the sight of the finish line in the distance. I could do this.

When we reached the crest of the hill, my heart sank. It was a false finish.

Now, this is where the most embarrassing portion of the story takes place. To put it simply, I lost control. I was sobbing, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was peeing my pants, and I couldn't seem to make it stop.

Focus on the Goal Rather Than the Finish Line

Now you're probably wondering what this humiliating experience has to do with writing, or with anything else for that matter.

What I've learned is that this race is symbolic of the way I tend to approach other goals in my life. Rather than focusing on running the race, I let the location of the finish line psyche me out.

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I'm currently in the process of writing a novel. Right now I'm clocking in around 17,000 words. This is about the time when the doubt begins to creep in. How in the world am I ever going to reach 90,000 words? 

I begin to panic and start to loose control of my emotions and my thoughts. 

Who am I to think I could ever write a book? Maybe I should give up and leave the real writing to people who know what they're doing.

Here is where I stop myself and remember why I'm doing this in the first place. What do I really want? I want to be a writer. If I want to write a book, that happens one page at a time. 

When we focus too intently on the finish line and forget the end goal, we become paralyzed, discouraged, and afraid. When we lose sight of the goal, we miss the mark completely.

This year, I want to enjoy each step in achieving my goals. The finish line will be there when I get there.

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
— John Steinbeck