Photo Credit: London Marathon 17-4-2005 by Flickr user Martin Pettit, used under a Creative Commons license.
One of the guiding principals laid out in the Law of Attraction school of thought (and let me state for the record that I am not a practitioner or promoter of this approach) is that in order to find success in a pursuit, you need to “act as if” you will be successful (or, even better, you already are). Or, in cruder form, you need to “fake it until you make it.”
The reason this approach can work is that it allows you to adapt the mentality and behaviors that will be needed to actually achieve success. Perhaps the best evidence for it is to think of what would happen if you took the opposite approach. If you plan for failure, you will meet that plan. If you have a lack of confidence in your goals, you will find a lack of commitment to executing the steps needed to reach those goals.
Obviously, this approach has limitations – for example, I wouldn’t want to go under the knife with a surgeon who’s faking any bit of his success (though it may work for lawyers). However, for a runner, this approach can help boost results, because so much of the sport is mental – your attitude and discipline towards reaching your goals, and the mindfulness you have when training or (especially) racing.
Here are six steps to take to start “acting as if” you are a successful runner, capable of achieving lofty ambitions.
- Pick a reasonable stretch goal. Your goal should be aggressive but, with the right training, achievable, and should provide the needed motivation for you to continuously want to be successful. The goal should fit into your longer-term vision of yourself as a runner, and should be stated in confident language.
- Find an appropriate plan and commit to executing it. Don’t undersell yourself by picking too easy of a plan (such as one you’ve already done). And don’t overtrain. To advance, you need to introduce new stimuli, but ones that are within your means.
- Take the execution seriously but be confident enough to flex. View every workout you’ve planned as important, but recognize that the training doesn’t have to be flawless so long as you’ve picked the right plan. View disruptions as opportunities to make subtle changes to drive further gains from your training. Avoid letting invalid excuses derail your intentions.
- Run like a runner. While not stressing the details of the “perfect running form“, think light, think fast cadence, and think about standing straight. This will get you 90% of the way, and you’ll feel like you are where you belong.
- Test yourself. Sign up for tune-up races to test your progress, and run them with intent. Don’t view them as “just a workout” but rather a trial to verify that your training is working. Set an appropriate goal and go for it.
- Step confidently. Whether it’s committing to go for a run with a “better” runner, joining a running group and selecting a pace, or lining up at the start of your race, do it with conviction. And when race day does come, run your own race – know your pace and stick to it, and worry not about those around you.
Once you succeed in this manner for the first time, it will be easier to do so a second, then a third. In my last marathon season, as I targeted breaking 3:00, I picked a more aggressive plan than done previously, but a logical step up, not a radical one. I executed it with intent and a degree of “urgency”, but did not allow panic to set in when faced with the inevitable setbacks. I picked a tune-up race, setting and meeting a goal that was consistent with my ultimate objective. And come race day, I lined up at the front of the pack, but ran my race, and delivered the most consistent splits possible.
And this approach works beyond running, of course (though again, if you want to be a doctor, I’d highly recommend attending medical school). In writing Running Ahead of the Sun, I treated it as if it had best-seller potential. I opted to create a print version and to format it carefully and professionally, even though it required numerous hours of additional work. I paid to enable broad distribution of the book, and then purchased inventory of my own to be able to promote. I don’t know yet how successful it will be, but I certainly know how unsuccessful it would have been if I set it up for failure.
So think through your own approach in setting and achieving your running goals. Are you tentative in your commitments, or are you showing up race day having acted as if you have already achieved your goal? I think it’s obvious which approach better prepares you for success.