Today I decided to do a number of things.

I decided to sign-up for the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon on the 4th of July, for the specific purpose of improving my finish time enough that I better my chances of actually running the Boston Marathon, not just qualifying for it.*

That wasn’t the biggest decision.

I also decided to publicly share this reason for running the marathon.

While I’ve shared a lot about my reasons for doing different things, I sometimes have a super-secret goal that I don’t share publicly.

It’s a way of trying to protect myself, of trying to set myself up for success, at least publicly.

Except that I know about the super-secret goal.

If I don’t reach it, I may not be publicly disappointed, or have to deal with questions or explanations about why I wasn’t able to reach my goal, but still, odds are, if I don’t reach it, I’ll be disappointed.

So, the biggest thing I had to decide today, was to be okay with the possibility of disappointment.

In doing that, I can open up the possibility for people to offer the support that’s going to help me stick with my training for this event, and meet my big goal. And I know there will be people to commiserate with me if I don’t. And strawberry shortcake. No matter what, there will be strawberry shortcake at the finish.

And that’s huge.

What about you?

Does the possibility of disappointment play into your decision making?

If you’d like to know how decisions can be made easier, join the Explore & Play call tomorrow, 3/12, at 11 am PDT. As always, the live call is free.

* After selling out in eight hours for the 2011 Boston Marathon, the organization instituted a number of changes to attempt to populate the field with the fastest runners. They’ve made it harder to qualify by making the times more stringent by five minutes, and are now using a rolling registration process, allowing runners who’ve run the fastest times in their age divisions to register first. Since I beat the qualifying time by only 37 seconds, it’s unlikely that I would actually get in.

3 comments to Deciding

  • A few years ago, as a middle-aged adult, I worked full-time while getting a master’s degree on the side. I then had the opportunity to get a fellowship for a PhD. Now, how many times will you get the opportunity to have your schooling mostly paid for? So I accepted, went to a casual status at work, and accepted the goodwill, support, respect, and admiration of everyone around me who loved the idea of me getting a PhD. The social approval I got from everyone was so overwhelming I almost felt obliged to go to school.

    I lasted a year in the program and had a mild nervous breakdown. I then had to decide whether to stay or whether to go. If I left, I would have to face EVERYONE who supported, encouraged, and otherwise bent over backwards to make this choice happen. I would have to tell them I failed. I did not want to do this. But the pain of staying in the program outweighed the shame I felt. But I did not look forward to sharing this decision with people.

    I blogged about the decision here: When I went around and started breaking the news to people, some of them winced, others nodded sympathetically, others said, “I could never have done it,” and in general, life went on. People were as supportive of me leaving the program as they were of me going into the program. Honestly, I was astonished at this. I was expecting disappointment, opprobrium (a $10 PhD word!), and negative judgments. Actually, I was the one feeling those things; everyone else was more concerned that I was OK and wanted to know how I was doing.

    I was surprised to discover that the people in my life who like and love me do not like and love me because of my education or because I take banjo lessons or because I publicly failed to achieve a very difficult goal.

    I think they like and love me for their own reasons, not mine. Which frankly surprised me. You mean, I don’t have to be deserving of love and friendship? I don’t have to keep proving myself?

    It was a humbling thing to realize and I had forgotten about that till I started writing this comment. So thank you for helping me bring it back to mind.

    (Aside — do you find you surprise yourself with what you’ve written? I wrote a year-end blog post for 2010 where I summarized some bigger lessons from this experience: I don’t remember writing that post, but there are other learnings from the experience there.)

  • […] in my own little world, the many people checking in with me, knowing that I’ve been talking about the Boston Marathon a lot lately, making sure that I’m […]

  • […] for it. It’s only been a few years since I started running at all. Earlier this year, I confessed my decision to run a third marathon to see if I couldn’t improve my chances of getting in to Boston after qualifying by less than […]

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