Yesterday I went on a run at Sweetwater Creek State Park. As you can see from the picture, it is beautiful. In January I ran a 50K race there and fell in love. Yesterday was the first time since then I could take the time to go back and enjoy it.
I usually run with my GPS watch strapped to my wrist. It faithfully gives me all the info I want to determine speed and distance. In running, these are the usual measures of success.
About two miles in, the trail descends into some sweet single track bordered by baby ferns and gurgling streams. I kept stopping to look and admire. Each time I stopped I would stop my watch. Why? Because the watch records your average pace and I also wanted to know how well I was doing in that department.
After several stops I asked myself why I cared about pace. Why was I here anyway? The goal wasn’t to run the course as fast as I could, right?
What was the goal?
About halfway through comes what my friend calls, “The Stairs to Mordor”. If you’ve seen the LOTR movies you’d get it. The trail brings you right to the banks of the creek and now you have to go up. And up. And still further up.
I stopped at a particularly picturesque part of the steps overlooking the powerful currents washing over the rocks.
This was the goal. Right here drinking in the majesty of God’s creation and taking time to reflect and thank Him. Numbers on a watch can’t measure that.
As I reflected I thought about the previous day’s experience. It was a culmination of the past 3-4 months of working my way back to professional clarinet playing. In God’s kindness I was able to get an opportunity to audition with the Atlanta Symphony. They had one opening and I’d been practicing more than I had in years.
I didn’t make it past the first round but I wasn’t disappointed in that as much as my performance. I didn’t play as well as I knew I could.
But what was the goal?
Was it to win?
No. I knew there were many, many more people there who had more talent and definitely more experience than I.
So what was the goal? What was the measure of success in attaining that goal?
It’s funny that I hadn’t really thought it through until that moment. Success in music had always meant perfect performances and winning auditions. That mindset was still ingrained.
In running long distances you learn the wisdom of setting different kinds of goals. Most people who run marathons don’t win and don’t set a PR every time so it helps to have other things to shoot for. Usually the first goal is to finish. Who cares about the time on the watch, just cross the finish line.
If my goal yesterday was not winning the audition, what was it? As I thought about how long it had been since I had prepared for such a thing, and how major an audition it was, I began to realize what the goal was.
To finish. To do all the preparation and then actually walk out on that stage in front of some world class musicians and put myself on the line in that one moment.
So what is the goal? I am learning how clarifying that question can be.