When Push Comes to Shove: Recognizing the Risks of Goal Setting and Hustle

When the goal setting mindset and hustle culture can actually be dangerous:

I pride myself on being a mind-over-matter person. I’m willing to wake up early when I need to, stay up late for a work emergency, and prioritize my sleep the rest of the time.

I’m constantly writing goals for myself and our family, checking in on them, and it’s actually one of my favorite things about myself.

Struck Down by Success: A Cautionary Tale

However, after 3 months of perfect training for a half marathon, I found myself on the floor, passed out at mile eleven, with my legs in excruciating pain and cramping. This was after a perfect training cycle, where not only did I run on every trip and vacation I took, nailed my paces for every speed workout, but I enjoyed it more than any other training I’ve done.

Leading up to the race, meaning a few days before, I felt VERY nervous, and even at the start line the desire to PR and self-imposed pressure really made the race unenjoyable. I hated every second, was counting down the minutes until it was over and overall was super negative about it.

What SHOULD have happened was, I should have been looking around appreciating a sport I loved alongside hundreds of people. I should have been proud of even running a half marathon instead of staring at my watch the entire time. And most importantly, I should have slowed down when I felt out of breath, and anxious, and instead my goal-setting perfectionist personality caused me to push through despite all of this, and pass out.
The most confusing part was days later when I went for a run again, and a few miles in, my mind began running in circles. 'Should I slow down? How do I trust myself? I love that I’m focused and willing to push through but what's the difference between that and fainting, so to speak?' Suddenly, the thing I loved about myself became something scary.

What I didn’t share on social media is what happened next. The week after, when I thought I was back to myself, deep down I was still probably feeling a little out of it and once again, instead of listening to my body, I pushed through, and I’m embarrassed by some of the elementary work correspondences I had that day. Because what I should have done was lie down, rest, and answer them later, instead of pushing through and sounding, frankly, stupid.

The lesson was learned after that though, and I’ve had several runs where I didn’t even look at my watch or run with a plan, and I’m working on being a lot less tough on myself when I need a break. Because I love that side of my personality, but it just may be time to slow it down a little bit, continuing to reflect on my accomplishments that happen daily, weekly, yearly and more, and recognize that goal setting and pushing yourself can be excellent tools for life, provided you trust yourself and practice slowing down as well.