If I had to pick one question that I’ve been asked the most over the past year, it has to be this one: “What is your plan?” No matter who I was talking to, whether it was about running or about life, this question would always pop up very quickly. And most times I was both proud and embarrassed to admit I didn’t really have a plan. Proud, because I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. Embarrassed, because I felt like I wasn’t living up to other people’s expectations; they might think I wasn’t going anywhere. After all, I didn’t know where I wanted to be in six months, a year or five years for that matter.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love when people invest in a solid structure – business, training or otherwise – that gets them to where they want to be. I admire people who have a plan and stick to it. However, there are other ways to live your life, and there are other ways to enjoy your running and even be successful at it. So this one’s for anyone who doesn’t have a plan, who hasn’t set themselves any lofty goals for 2022 (yet) and/or for anyone who’s already falling behind on their New Year’s resolutions. This one’s to remind you that you don’t always need a plan or a goal. There might be other things to aim for.
When people ask us about our plans, it is usually because that’s how life works for most. We have life goals, career goals, relationship goals, race goals – and so once we have set these goals, we prepare, execute, evaluate, rinse and repeat. It makes perfect sense: it gives structure and something to hold onto, as well as a feeling of accomplishment when you achieve something you can measure. That can be anything from the numbers on your bank account, to the amount of followers you have, or from the size of your house to that marathon PR. It helps you to stay the course and to keep making progress.
However, sometimes you reach a point where a different approach works better for you. Maybe your life is stressful enough as it is and you don’t want to add any more pressure by setting yourself rigid goals. Maybe you’re fully content and you don’t feel the need to be striving for something bigger or better. Or maybe you just don’t have a clue where you’re going and what your plan should look like, and you’re OK with that.
Whatever your situation is right now, there is one thing we all have in common: at the end of the day we are all human beings. We are not our bank accounts, our social media profiles or our race results. Even though those things can be meaningful to us, it is not who we are at our core. Who we are is about our values, our beliefs, the way we treat the people around us, the way we face challenges. Nobody can take them away from you, they are what make you you. And that’s why it might be a great thing to allow yourself to look beyond the numbers, beyond the measurable. What makes life worth living? Who do you want to be as a person? Who do you want to spend your time with? And as a runner, how does your training contribute to that?
All the hours spent on the trails might tell you something about what discipline means to you or about your love for the outdoors. You might be learning about your strengths and weaknesses, you might be exploring parts of yourself that are more adventurous, independent or courageous than you thought. Maybe you discover ways to encourage others. Maybe you find a sense of community.
It’s never black and white, though; having a plan doesn’t mean you’re only focused on the numbers, and not having a plan doesn’t mean completely abandoning all goals. Signing up for a race or setting yourself a challenge can inspire or motivate you, help you connect with others or simply give you something to look forward to. But whatever path you choose, know that you are so much more than your (lack of a) plan. It can be great to be working towards something, but you don’t need to have big goals or an intricate plan for the year(s) ahead, even though others might expect you to. You can enjoy the journey that you’re on and you can keep moving forward, even if you’re not entirely sure where you’re going.
The beauty of living for the sake of living and running for the sake of running is that you’ll be in no rush; you can never get behind schedule. Life has a tendency to throw things at us that we never could have seen coming, but you’ll be able to handle whatever comes your way this year – good or bad. Your race might get cancelled, but you can still enjoy the outdoors. You might get injured, but you can still be dedicated or brave. You might DNF, but you can still be moving forward.
Having no plan isn’t always the easiest option. It might mean you get a little lost sometimes – but you can still be exactly where you need to be.