It is frustrating how often distractions get in the way of our goals. Admittedly, sometimes we need "distractions" to remind us what is really important or what our more important goals are, so not all distractions are bad. I had the opportunity to witness a distraction progress recently and it was educating. To be honest I am not sure what I learned as it happened within the last 24 hours, but I know that I learned something.
One of the nice things about moving is that you start at the new location as a new person. I am very fortunate to have moved to Dubuque at a time when my life is going as well as it ever has. What I mean is that I hit the ground running, figuratively (and actually). I have noticed that with time distractions tend to build in any location. When I am new in town I have no requests of myself from others, which allows me to be very focused and thus effective in the things that I do.
I was thinking about high school, college, and post-collegiate life on one of my runs recently and the difference between focus and distractions. In high school, I did everything. Not actually everything, but I was involved in so many different groups that for my grade I had the most pictures in the year book twice and I was second in my class once. As I get older I realize the difference focusing on a specific goal makes versus floating between a number of different activities. For example, I guarantee that you will not find one person that is a professional athlete, concert quality orchestra musician, and CFO of a company with 100+ million in sales annually all at the same time. Each one of those requires so much work to get to that point of capability that along the way other pursuits are typically sacrificed.
In the world of literature no narrative about running has influenced my own training as much as Chris Lear's Running with the Buffaloes. The book follows the Colorado University cross country team as it tries to win the national championship. As far as seasons to follow this has to be one of the most eventful seasons that any team of any sport has ever had. Of course along the way there is a fair amount of talk about training, but the emotional human aspect is very strong due to the events and mainly the one event that occurs part of the way through the season. One of the take away ideas from the book for me what that universities are not looking for well rounded people, they are looking for people that are really good at something. In terms of running, universities want the fastest runner, not the 700th fastest who does other things moderately well too.
I read that book when I was about 20, which was a big year for me in terms of maturing. I realized I was not a kid and I had to get serious about my life. It was time to avoid distractions. Attempting to avoid distractions is a significant aspect of my life. It's part of the reason I've been single so long. It is part of the reason my mountaineering and climbing career has occurred with a number of leaps of commitment. I was (and in many respects still am) too inexperienced to be in Pakistan climbing 8000 meter mountains, but as part of the process toward a goal of mine I feel the need to avoid distractions and give myself the opportunity to excel. One way to do that is put myself out there and cut the distractions also known as camp on a glacier in Pakistan for a month.
Sometimes distractions can build over time. For example, last year about this time I was bumming around summer camp after the season was over doing some interesting things in my routine, but not much. I felt that I needed to do something "big" to progress. While I failed at climbing just about everything, I ended up running the Wonderland Trail, which was a fantastic experience. I also met and reconnected with a number of my friends, which by itself made the trip worth it.
What I am trying to say, if you did not get it yet, is that you have to keep your eyes on the prize, the important goals of your life. There are many distractions in life. I think that trying just about everything is a great idea, but I feel succeeding at even one long term goal is worth more than dozens, perhaps hundreds of distraction experiences.
Writers note: Just so that you know where my head is at, I've been "struggling" since my marathon. I've done so many of the things that I want to that the thought of attacking running again is giving me some apprehension. I've been bicycling (a distraction), working more hours (a distraction from running although an interesting and fulfilling one that pays well, 50 hours a week versus 40 really cuts into my running time), and spending more time reading and consuming media. The excitement to do 100+ (I'm hoping for some consistent 120 mile weeks this fall) mile weeks is coming back but I can't just go out and do it, it takes a few weeks to get there pushing myself every day. Long term motivation for me has never been a problem, but short term I can be super lazy and apathetic. Hence, I feel I've been distracted.