I bumped into an old acquaintance at the gym not too long ago. Healthy guy, driven, an attorney who enjoyed endurance races.
After exchanging some pleasantries I asked him how he was doing.
He told me that he had hurt his achilles pretty bad and that he could barely run around the block. He was focusing on swimming, biking and training a more effective run stride while he rehabbed his foot and calf.
Sounded like he was doing all the right things physically (re: using his downtime in one place to improve in other areas he had more control of), so I asked him, "How's your head space with all this?"
"Absolutely terrible!" he replied. "I have a 100-mile race to do in three months!" And with that, he turned and left.
I couldn't help but ask the question to the empty air quietly... "Why race?"
A few weeks later, I'm pretty sure that question saved my marriage.
My wife and I had a fight and I was floored. I was so angry with her, so blind-sided by her frustration at me for the umpteenth time, that all I wanted to do was get away.
I started scrolling for other places to live and had a bunch of imaginary fights with the mirror; telling the mirror all the things about my wife that angered me.
And then, after a day and a half of debilitating and energy sucking anger, I looked at the mirror and instead of fighting said, with compassion... "What race am I running?"
I wasn't really mad at my wife. Does she not have a right to have feelings and emotions and perspectives too? I was mad at my response to my wife.
I was mad at my anger, at my Self, for losing hold of my temperance and not actually hearing what she had to say.
"It's not what you say, it's how you say it," is a healthy concept and, I believe, something we should be extremely mindful of when we deliver a message.
When listening to the message however, we can run a different race and tell ourselves, "It's what is said, not how it is said," that is important if we want to get to the anchor point of the conversation. This takes a massive amount of perspective, self-control, confidence, peace and self-esteem to pull off.
Pain, anger, and misery can be addictive. Sometimes, if we are not fighting against something, we have no sense of who we are. This is a dangerous race to run for an extended period of time.
You don't have to race. You don't have to run. You can spend years and years simply working at being better just because.
There are many ways to improve yourself and so many different types of races to run... or not run.
At some point you will go from needing exterior validation for inner satisfaction to cultivating peace from within. This is a much more difficult, and rewarding, game to play.
It is up to you what things mean and how to use them to your advantage... that might sting a little when you fully understand it.
The races we choose to run should be challenging and enjoyable. Compete in Latin means, "strive together".