You can do anything you want, but…

img_5962-1This isn’t a ‘you can achieve anything, honey!’ type post. For example, I know that I will never do an Ironman because I swim like a brick who has turned grass on the Mafia and have been given a pair of concrete boots. Nah, there is a big difference between self-limiting beliefs, delusion and realism. What I am a talking – well, writing – about here is doing not achieving. And anyway, no doing guarantees no achieving.

The amount of times I hear the phrase ‘I don’t have the time…’ or ‘I am too busy…’ etc as a precursor to some excuse about not doing something is incredible. It doesn’t have to be running, or indeed exercise, it could be the crochet class you wanted to do, or the language you want to learn. Of course, I will tie it back to running here as is my want.

In life, you can do anything you want, you really can. What you need to define is the difference between I’d like to and I want to. When you talk about goals you’d like to achieve in reality you are already less than semi-committed. They are nice to haves. The kind of thing you’d feel good about but are not obsessions enough to work hard at. I’d like to be a much better guitarist, or do more creative writing. One day I might get tore in about them. The key word there is might.

The reason I don’t? It’s because I want to be the best father, husband and runner I can be. Added to my work commitments that means I have limited time so I have to use it wisely and borderline selfishly. Not losing the essence of who and what I am, but with an air of single-mindedness that affords me the ability to realise my wants and ambitions, dabble with my likes and be the best person I can be.

‘I don’t have the time…’ is really a way of saying – I’d love to do this but I have other priorities that I have chosen which take precedent over this goal.

Clearly everyone has different pushes and pulls on time, and time is what we need to dedicate to a venture. Look at Jo Pavey, now a 5-time Olympian, with kids. It is almost as if she has bent space and time to realise her dreams of going to Rio. She came up with ingenious ways of finding the space to do what was required. Sometimes that was having an agile schedule, other times it was having rigid plans or training is an less standard way in whatever environment she could find. But she always knew what she wanted. Jo didn’t do all the training and effort because she’d like to go to Rio. She made it happen because she wanted it. She wanted it badly. She sacrificed a lot to get there.

You see the same thing over and over again, be it in community life or in sport. People who really want something are almost infinitely more likely than someone who sees it as a nice to have ambition. A milestone that would be great to tick off is nothing compared to determination in seeking out that goal.

Perhaps the most dissatisfaction in terms of outcome for many is getting caught in the ‘I’d like to…’ cycle. In running terms, that could be “I’d like to beat 3 hours for a marathon”, or “do an ultra” or “beat my PBs”, whatever it may be. I believe that if you have say ten ‘I’d like to…’ goals the chances are you going to miss a lot of them and feel a wee bit down on yourself at times. Whereas, having two or three goals you really really want to hit and focusing on them… well, I believe you are a) more likely to get behind them, b) as you do so you will find your focus and dedication to the goal increases the more you work towards it; a virtuous circle if you like and c) when you achieve that goal you will find much more satisfaction as you will know just what it took and you will have become almost one with it.

Next time you are sitting down and thinking about what you want to do, remember you can do anything you want. Anything at all. But… you will likely have to give up something to do it though. You will need to sacrifice something, as in my case, music and writing for running. In others, it might be chocolate and sweets for weight loss. For others, it could be holidays and nights out to buy a house and start a family. Sometimes that’s the scary leap. Giving up to step up. I’d like to gets replaced by I want to. It’s your choice.


8 replies to “You can do anything you want, but…

  1. Very sound advice. I was always raised that ‘I want never gets’, maybe that’s why I’m guilty of saying ‘I’d like’ to do sub whatever for different races and end up doing a few minutes over. I might try this strategy and see what happens!

  2. Great read James, thoroughly enjoyed that, thanks for sharing.
    I started running 4 years ago, and I’ve just this second changed my ‘I’d love’ to do a sub 4 hour marathon to an ‘I will’


  3. I discovered your blog this morning – I’ll be back to read more. I turned my ‘I’d like to run’ into ‘I run’ in February last year. Interestingly, it showed me that (as you say) you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Even run – the one thing I had decided I couldn’t do when I was at primary school. I started off age 46 aiming for a 5K, then a 10k… Next stop is a half marathon, in my own sweet time.

  4. Thank you for the post! It’s a little tough love and a kick in the pants that a lot of people need. And as someone training for a first ultra (gulp) I totally understand the time dilemma.

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