Here in upstate New York, March has given new definition to “coming in like a lion.” After a devastating wind storm which left more than 100,000 people living in the cold dark for over a week, Mother Nature decided to drop more than 24 inches of snow on our already weary and weather-beaten community.
As a coach and athlete, I have delivered and heard innumerable speeches about the evils of excuses. However, when roads and trails are buried and the wind chill hovers in Antarctic temperature, no inspirational speech or motivational quote is enough to avoid the excuse trap. Indeed, despite looking at our race calendars or training plans, given these circumstances, we will rationalize and reevaluate. As people, we are adept at justifying our actions, especially when they assist in avoiding a challenging or unpleasant task.
In his 2012 book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes these and other hurdles to unlocking our creative potential. While his work primarily focuses on the creative arts, there is one process that when applied to our athletic endeavors can be the difference between days on the couch and days that count.
Pressfield advocates for adopting a “professional” attitude as opposed to an “amateur” attitude. The difference between the two is what separates many of the successful runners I coach from those who are constantly frustrated and disheartened. The essential element to the “professional” attitude is not being paid to do something, it is the prioritization and “business-like” approach a professional brings to any endeavor.
Whether it is our baking hobby or our running, a “professional” approach inhibits us from finding excuses. Certainly, a little snow, wind, or busy week would not keep us from punching our time clock at our place of employment, and similarly, it should not keep us from punching our clock at the activities we value.
A common hesitation to adopting a “professional” approach to our “hobbies” is the fear that somehow professionalism and enjoyment are mutually exclusive. However, consider why certain activities give us pleasure. Is it because they are simple, easy, lack challenge and therefore meaning? Most likely, not. Otherwise we would all take great satisfaction in folding the laundry and filling the car with gas.
No, indeed the things that we draw the most enjoyment from are endeavors that we commit significant time, energy, sacrifice, and effort toward. In short, we find the most pleasure in the activities we approach most professionally. Therefore, by adopting a professional attitude toward running, we are far more likely to achieve our athletic and enjoyment goals.