Sunday, July 8, 2018

From great to good: How I changed my life for the better

About six years ago, while discussing my running goals, I was asked why these goals were so important to me. Couldn't I simply be happy by being "a good person doing good things," he asked.

This question saddened me greatly at the time. It was as if I was being asked to settle.  I interpreted "a good person doing good things" as being ordinary and mediocre. Anyone can be a good person doing good things, but few people could qualify for Boston or win awards for their running accomplishments. I loved running so much because I believed it made me special. I wanted to be a someone who did great things, not just good things.

What I heard was "you shouldn't be so focused on this running stuff; give it up and just live a plain old normal life." It was like he was telling me I shouldn't try to be so special. I should just focus on being like everyone else. It was a hard pill to swallow.

This was six years ago and during those six years, I have thought extensively about this topic. I've opened my eyes to the world around me and I've had encounters with people who did not do good things. Who, based on the way they treated me and others around me, I believed to be morally corrupt. The more I observed the actions and motives of these people, the more I realized that being a good person, doing good things is the essential foundation for my self-worth. Not my accomplishments, running or otherwise. I work hard and I'm nice to people. I'm passionate about what I do. I try to bring positivity to challenging situations. I could win a dozen races, and it would be meaningless without this core foundation.

Accomplishments are easy to hang your hat on. They are tangible, measurable, and shareable. But they are meaningless if you don't value yourself for the way in which you live your life. Because I was never really taught what true self esteem was, it was easy to point to my accomplishments and feel proud. I think I've always been a good person doing good things, but I vastly undervalued it. I didn't realize that I should be loving myself for it, instead of focusing so much on what I could achieve. I'm probably a late bloomer in all of this, as I didn't come to this realization until my mid 30s. But once I did, it was life changing.

Now, as I go about my days, I am much more aware of how I'm approaching situations and not simply the end goal. I prioritize acting with dignity and I admire others who do the same.

I'm currently coming off of a five-week break from running. Many people have said to me, "it must be killing you to not run!" But truthfully, it didn't kill me. It was (and still is) hard, but I didn't focus on it all that much because I knew I would recover and eventually I'd be out there running every day again.

In closing, what this person was asking me to do was anything but ordinary and mediocre. He was asking me to start thinking about my values and who I was as a person. Was I a good person? Did I treat others with respect? Was I honest, caring, and genuine? I've come to realize that I pride myself most on my authenticity.

Great things aren't great if they aren't fundamentally good. If we all focused more on being good rather than great, the world would surely be a better place.


  1. Well Zebra-woman...congratulations on discovering yourself and what really defines you and your life! I have followed your blog in the aftermath of reading your Boston Bound book and it is obvious you have come a long way in discovering your value is not defined simply in numbers or races or if you qualify for Boston or not. But knowing who you are and being grounded and cognizant of your core values and how you live your life and interact with others...all that matters in the long run. And considering your thoughts in this post...when you get back to will be a better runner and person...irrespective of the race results. Good post...good to hear you on solid ground!

  2. Great reflection! I was just thinking about this earlier today. With social media, it's so easy for people to project an image of who they want to be, not necessarily who they are. It frustrates me. I'm pretty good at reading between the lines and I'm not at all good at playing along with phoniness. I might not always say what people want to hear but they do know that what I say is genuine.

  3. Totally true - and I think the value lies in the definition of "good". If you use one meaning of good, the saying could imply a grade of excellence: much like a receipt survey. Poor, fair, good, excellent, outstanding. In that case, doing good things could be seen as settling for the ordinary. But interpreting good as "morally correct, not evil, right" changes the meaning to, instead, choosing to do the right thing in your daily life. And that's not ordinary at all!