It got to the point where I was running for all the wrong reasons. I was running for family, teammates, and coaches. I was running because I was good at it, because it was what I knew, because it was my life. Who wouldn't be a professional athlete if the opportunity arose? It just made sense.
I’m sure you've been there, doing something you've been deemed “good at” but have no desire to do; working a job because it’s all you knew or doing so just makes sense.
Sadly, all of those reasons were not enough to outweigh the fact that the one person I wasn't running for was myself.
My external motivations were endless but my internal motivation was non-existent. My passion and love for the sport were gone. Unfortunately, there was a direct correlation between my internal motivation and my performance. While I wasn't running poorly, I wasn't running well, either.
When I finally reached this realization, I had to make a very tough decision. Should I keep running professionally, perhaps never reaching my full potential and risking my love for the sport? Or should I walk away from everything I knew, from what everyone was telling me to do, so that I could find my passion again—something that wasn't even a guarantee?
Was I willing to take a leap of faith?
After wrestling over this decision for what seemed like an eternity and stressing myself to the point of sickness, I realized that I wasn't willing to sacrifice my love for the sport just to please everyone else. I decided to give up everything, and disappointed a lot of people in the process, because I wanted to remember what it felt like to want to run.
I felt a lot of relief after I shared my decision. A burden had been lifted, but I was also very scared. Would I ever love to run again? How would I find my passion for the sport that had become my life? Even more frightening—what was I going to do with my life now?
First, I stopped running.
I took my first Zumba class, discovering I have absolutely no rhythm. I gave more of my now available time and energy to my part-time job and, surprisingly, enjoyed it more and more. And eventually, after separating myself from the sport, I realized how much I missed the ease and freedom of just walking out the door to go on a run. The peace you feel as you venture out on your own, responsibilities forgotten.
Things were starting to fall into place. I didn’t hate running anymore and I was offered a promotion at work. My leap of faith was paying off, but I still wasn't able to say I loved running again.
I began to ask myself why I started running in the first place. Maybe those answers would help. Was it because I was good at it? Maybe it was my father’s influence, or maybe I liked beating the boys. Whatever the reason, it definitely developed into something much more. It took time to put my finger on what, but after a while I realized it was joy. Running used to bring me joy, pleasure, and maybe a runner’s high or two. I used to run because of how it made me feel, physically and emotionally. So maybe if I started running again, not because someone wanted me to, but because I chose to, I could find that joy again?
Eventually I decided to go on a run. Let me tell you it was not very pleasurable. I was horribly out of shape. But you know what? I really enjoyed it. I liked that I could walk out my front door, no equipment needed, and just run. I liked that my lungs burned, my legs ached, and it was my doing, my choice, my decision that caused it. I wouldn't go as far as to say I was passionate about running again, but it was a very good start.
So how to get from feeling joy to being passionate? To be honest, I’m not really sure; I’m not there yet. I think it will be something that develops with time. Maybe I need to take the risk of not just running for myself but of running for something else again. Maybe that’s where true passion lies: in the place where you can happily couple your internal and external motivations.
Whatever passion may be, I’m thankful that I took that leap of faith and made the decision to walk away from all that I knew, from what made sense. Deep down I know that, one day, I will be able to say without hesitation that I’ve found my passion again.
Have you found your passion? Do you need to make a tough decision and take a leap of faith?