The expectations we place on ourselves and others have a major impact on our level of contentment. I began to reflect on this after looking up all my half marathon finish times the other day.

The December of my senior year in college, I ran my first half marathon. I hated it. I thought I was so slow, and it was miserable. Finish Time: 2:01

Last March (12 years and three children later), I ran my second half marathon, and I hated it almost as much as the first. I ran a slower pace than I did for both of my full marathons, and I felt terrible during the run.  Finish Time: 2:18

I signed up for another one in the fall to run with a friend. I loved the entire run, and I felt amazing. Finish Time: 2:12

I ran my fourth half marathon this March. I had so much fun. It was my best half marathon yet. Finish Time: 2:28

While there are other factors involved in how I felt during and after the runs, the biggest impact came from my own expectations. My least enjoyable experience was also my most successful attempt at the half marathon distance, and my favorite run was my slowest.

The lesson I learned when I looked back at all my race times is that I could have enjoyed all the events if I had not created expectations for myself that were beyond my current capabilities. In college, I knew I had lost some training due to injury, and I was still not fully recovered. I should have gone in expecting to perform at a lower level than I would at full health.

The reason I loved my most recent half marathon even though the time was the slowest is I had set a reasonable expectation for the run. I looked at the situation leading into the run, and I gave myself the grace to not push for my best while working through plantar fasciitis. I chose to have fun and run with other people. I know it sounds like common sense, but that is not the way I have always operated.

This isn’t a post about running. It is a post about giving yourself grace when you determine your expectations. Although there is value in striving to do your best in everything you do, sometimes you need to be aware of what your best is in that moment. You will enjoy each moment a little more if you are able to value it for what it is rather than what it isn’t.

Try this challenge for one day:

Look in the mirror and see the beauty of who you are rather than who you wish you could be.

List all you have accomplished rather than what is waiting to be done.

Ignore the scale, and value your health.

Look at your home and see the warmth and love provided in it rather than what it is missing.

View others for who they are rather than who they are not.



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