Scott’s Thoughts: How Far to Go?

The Horrible Hundred in Central Florida

Heading out on the "Horrible Hundred" right here in Central Florida!

“The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.”

Charles DeLint

As a cyclist, one of the rides I’ve regularly taken part in is “the century.” A century is a 100-mile ride. Like most competitive sports, there are century rides all over the world, and newbies to serious cycling often use the century as a goal. To finish one respectably requires a regular, dedicated training schedule.

Because a century is such a long ride for first-timers, there’s lots to learn about how to go the distance. While a twenty or thirty mile ride might be undertaken without much preparation, the century requires adaptation to saddle soreness, appropriate hydration and nutrition, and a degree of mental toughness. Building mileage is fun. Each week you track total miles ridden and the longest ride so far. You learn about your body’s capacity to grow and recover. You also get a lot of time to think.

I like to think of the century as a good metaphor for other long-term goals, and a key to reaching long-term goals is the ability to accurately assess how far you have to go. In this way, you can track your progress, understand your speed, anticipate when you might reach your goal, and adjust your strategy and tactics based on this feedback.

Quanitfying progress helps you practice realistic optimism. It both encourages you, through gradual momentum, but also keeps you humble. After you proudly conquer your first 50-miler, you take a step back and say, “Okay, imagine doing that again. Right now.” It’s both sobering and inspiring to realize you have something to work for and that if you work for it, you will accomplish it.

Of course, not everything in life is so quantifiable. Or is it? You might want to “be happier” or “be more successful.” Is it impossible to measure these goals? What if you started putting specific terms to them? We often think success and happiness can be measured in dollars, but I think by now all of us have a more mature understanding of that idea. The parable of the lonely, bitter millionaire is timeless.

Yet we might be able to look at what makes us feel successful or happy and begin measuring our actions in pursuit of those goals. I think when we do, we begin to realize that it’s not the attainment of those states (or goals) which give us so much satisfaction, but the distance we cover on the road in pursuit of them. While we may not be able to know with certainty how far we have to go, we can take measure of whether or not we’re getting closer.

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