Defining Success When You Don’t Want to be the Best

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I’ve blogged in the past about my love for running and why I do it. I’ll never be fast enough to run with the front of the pack- unless I’m still running when I’m 80 (which is when my marathon times will be fast enough to qualify me for Boston.) Although I do like challenging myself and want to stay in good shape, I don’t run to lose weight. I do it because I love it. Running is my stress reliever, and part of what makes me, me. When I’m going through a hard time or my day didn’t go as smoothly as planned, I can’t wait to get out and run. My runs aren’t always easy, and sometimes I just want to stop and go home. But then I think about the feeling I’ll have when I’m done, and that sense of accomplishment is enough to push me through to the finish.

I’ve been passed in races by a pregnant woman running up a hill and a man pushing two toddlers in a double stroller. Lucky for me, I’m not a competitive person. I’m very competitive with myself and like to see how my body can rise up to meet a challenge. But it doesn’t bother me to be passed by people, young or old. Especially right now when I’ve been battling an injury that limits how often I can run or how comfortable the run will be, I’m happy when I can just get out there pain-free.

My dad is also a slow runner; I think it’s in our genes. I’ve seen him get down on himself about races, saying how terrible his time was or how he wishes he could get faster. He just turned 65 and is still running half marathons. I tell him that the fact that he’s out there running at all is a huge accomplishment. Does he really need a time clock to tell him whether or not he’s a success? No way.

John Schwartz recently wrote a New York Times article about running, and it struck a chord with me. He said that when he runs, he’s not out there to prove anything to himself or anyone else. It’s part of his routine and something he enjoys, but he’s not focused on getting faster or running farther.

When you know you’ll never be the best at something, how do you define success? Are there any physical activities you do just because you like them, and not because you feel like you should?

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BONIFIANT 11/20/2019
My husband was not a fast runner but he was steady. He ran seventeen marathons and ran 40 miles on his 40th birthday. As the tortoise and hare story says, "slow and steady wins the race." Report
DJ4HEALTH 6/22/2019
Can't run or walk because of my arthritis in my ankle Report
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KHALIA2 5/24/2019
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fascinating article! When I was working I was competitive - more with myself as I wanted to be successful and achieve bigger and better positions. with exercise, not at all. I simply do it because I enjoy it, it makes me feel good, and it is critical to keeping me healthy. Don't care what others are doing or how I compare. Report
I define success by the goals I set for myself. Report
It is what was bothering me at the moment and at the same time the question deep inside me i have just answered.
Definition of success comes with your knowing deep inside all the effort, struggle, all the road you have already walked...
Definition of success comes with what you bring back home after a race .A smile, a relief, some moments of inner connection, a reinvention of yourself...
Someone up there must had listened to my doubts and fears and send me this blog to wake me up.Thank you! Report
I have issues too. When I run I feel sometimes like I am not the fastest runner or the best runner. But I do know it's all about being healthier and not what I look like. I love doing it and I never thought I would. And when there are moments when I want to give up and go home. And during those times I ask God to help me do it and He does. Report
I used to be very competitive in running. Long distance running was one thing I was good at. At times it felt (past tense!!!!!) like i was the only thing. But rheumathoid arthritis and a whole bunch of health problems since I turned 40, have taught me a hard lesson. I can now actually run in a group without wanting to be up front all the time......LOL But during our fun races I still want to be up front and it hurst to see myself falling further behind.
What I usually tell myself then is I am 2 years older than Paul Tergat and therefore I do not need to win races any more. he has retired form running full marathons.
Hope I can take my body slow enough to get back to running full marathon again though. If I manage to run the same time I did in the Full Marathon I ran in 2004 I would be able to qualify for Boston with 65!
I guess Boston is off my to do list then....... LOL But I hope to still be running by then.

Steph Report
I think success is doin your best no matter what level you are at and not comparing yourself to others. Like in my case years gone by i always talked about living a healthier life style n cutting out bad eating habits. Finally this year i made the change and i'm way happier and healthier now. No major physical changes have taken place as yet. but im still workin at it on a daily basis. To me this is success and i am very proud of my self.... and you guys too.. bless Report
There are LOTS of things I do because I enjoy them, not to prove anything to someone else. Running isn't on my list, but strength training is. I lift because I LOVE the feeling. I lift heavy because my body reacts extremely well to such stress. Like you said about running, I don't really care if the person next to me is lifting heavier, though - I always just assume their body is trained to do that.

Success in that kind of effort? I think it comes down to how wonderful it makes us feel! Like parenthood - there's no competition, but there's definitely a huge sense of satisfaction, perhaps of a "mission accomplished"! Report
I haven't given up on myself. I think there's a success story in there. Report
Success, to me, is being the best that I can be. I have limitations, but try my best to work around them. Yoga, swimming, riding my bike, are all things I can do. I modify my yoga poses, depending on how my joints feel, and am proud when I've done a class, and feel good about myself. Report
I think it's all how you define 'wanting to be the best'. Will I win races - probably never. My age group? probably not. But - I want to be the best ME I can be. So I am competitive with my own running times, disappointed when I miss a target, and happy when I improve. Report
You hit a chord with me with this blog as I completed C25K over the summer and recently ran my 1st 5K. There were many runners passing me which was disappointing at first. I wanted to give up early on from lack of sleep related to excitement about the race and discouragement from passers. In the end, I persevered though. I thought of the countless friends who have endured breast cancer treatment and survived. Certainly, I could finish a race on their behalf. I finished at 38 minutes which isn't bad for my first and don't really care to improve it. I am just truly thrilled that I love the feeling I have when I finish a run. I only partially run once this week and am feeling cranky from overworking/deadlines. I will go to bed early tonight and get my morning run in before my work day begins...Thanks for posting this... Report
When I know I can't be the best, I define my success by how happy I am. I have danced ballet for 7 years now, and I am nowhere near pro level, let alone soloist! But that's ok, because every time I take a class, I feel happy! Every time I notice advancement, no matter how small, I feel like a success! Report
Im all about a good work out these days too. Report
I would love to have the 'want to'! OK, so there are times when I see somebody running down the road all dressed up in their " I am getting fit" gear (I can not afford) and my mind says, "I wish I could do that!"
When I get enough courage to try again and I go out, I can not get one block from my house without feeling like I am going to fall over dead! It is not long after I get above a walk that my eyes feel like they are bulging in my skull and somebody taped a straw around my mouth and nose and that is all the air I can breath in and out...(I was a HEAVY smoker for years, have been smoke free for over 2 years now) I then get frustrated and quit...I am not as young as I use to be (38)...LOL...and my metabolism has really slowed down...I usually bounce back and forth between 135# -175# and nothing changes in my routine...I eat the same, do the same (not much) and still bounce drastically with my weight...they tested my thyroid and the numbers stay, most of the time, just in the 'average' range...there are times that it is 'just' outside of that but not enough for the doc's to do is frustrating to be in the 'prime' of my life and have NO energy to do anything and for my ankles, knees, hips and back to hurt just to walk around the block...I am currently weighing in at 171# and it takes everything I got just to get out of bed :(

So, just to be able to enter a race and know that you will be faster than a walk the entire time is truly a gift in my eyes! Keep up the great job!!! Report
Success for me is just doing "IT" - whatever the "IT" is that I've set out to do that day or week. "It" can mean going to the store, washing the dishes, folding the laundry, making jello, eating some freggies... taking a shower... getting out of bed... some days are still a lot harder than others. Success is not only knowing you're doing the best you can, but getting up tomorrow and doing it again! Report
This is so refreshing. Sometimes competitive talk just leaves me feeling inadequate. I keep reminding myself...the one I have to measure myself by is myself. If I can honestly say I've done my best...I've succeeded. Report
I feel that way whenever I walk / jog or bicycle. No race against any specific time. Just move so it feels good and I get a workout! I LOVE to whiz along on my bike sometimes, but not because I'm racing against anyone nor any specific time, but because going fast just plain feels GREAT sometimes! And what's fast for me may be someone else's's all about the experience that counts!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
Thanks for posting this makes perfect sense. I WILL STOP BEING HARD ON MYSEF FOR NOT RUNNING FASTER! Report
I think I measure my success by how I feel about what I've done. I'm not a competitve person so being number 1 at something doesn't motivate me very much. Report
I compete with myself only and define success by how close I come to a goal I have set for myself such as number of steps in a day or number of minutes of exercise during a week.
I walk because I like to walk and I count my steps because I love adding them up and seeing how far I have gone Report
It's so nice to hear from someone whose approach is like mine. I definitely run, in part, to lose/maintain my weight but I do it for stress relief and feeling great more than anything. I am slow (I guess running a 12ish minute mile, but I don't really time it) I think over time I can run farther and faster a little at a time, but I don't worry about it, I know it will happen naturally. For myself, I focus on endurance -- I ran for 30 minutes! I ran for an hour!! That sort of thing. It's a major confidence booster. Report
I would love to run, but I have a bad knee so I can't run very long before I have problems, so I started walking. Last year at 54, I walked my first 1/2 marathon in 3 hours 9 mins. This year I walked the same 1/2 marathon in 2 hrs 58 mins. that was success for me. Firstly I did it! Ten or twenty years ago I couldn't have done it. And Secondly I improved my time by 11 mins.

Four years ago my goal was to lose weight. today my goal has changed. I still need to lose a few pounds, but my goal is to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle for as long as I can. I have a friend who doesn't understand why anyone would want to do a 1/2 marathon. It's not like you're going to win. But I feel like I do win every time I finish and cross that line. I'm proud of my metal and of myself. Report
Success to me, at least at this point, is just getting out there and trying. Making an effort. Just doing it for me. Report
I define success as how you feel about what you did and yourself after you accomplish what you want. Was it beneficial for you? Did you feel great about it? Report
When I think about success, I work to be my best self and to be as successful as I can. It's not about being successful as compared to other people. I am also an extremely slow runner. This summer was the first time I started running regularly. I may have been slow, but I learned that I can run, that I love to run, and I completed a half marathon. How could I say that I'm not successful just because I didn't win the race or run faster than most people out there? We need to remember that success comes from within and there are so many times when we are "successful" even though we're not "first." I have had a hard time learning this (and I'm not supposed to think this way as a lawyer), but it's so true. Never ignore all of your successes just because they weren't first place wins! Report
Actually finishing what I started; SUCCESS! Report
The girls on my tennis team used to make fun of me in college because my favorite part of the season were the practices rather than the matches. I just like playing tennis, and I watched myself get bumped down the ranks as more competitive people played my former spot. I didn't mind. I liked practice and how good it felt to learn or improve a new stroke.
Now, I've been into running for the past few years and although I'm not always fast, I'm almost always running. I often get gawked at when someone finds out I run 6-8 miles 5-6 days a week and that, no, I'm not training for anything. I'm just running. I feel good doing it. I feel good when I'm done. I'm less stressed and more calm afterwards. I'm happier. These are my measures of success. Report
What I love about yoga is that there is no "best" out there. The "best" is what you are doing at the moment in the moment. I used to beat myself up about balance poses...I don't anymore. I just keep trying because yoga is part of me. Report
For me, success is doing the BEST I can at any given moment...some days that is REALLY good, other days...not so much! BUT as long as I focus on the "doing the best I can" at the time, then I have been/am successful! If/when I do things "by rote" I am less than successful.

I find that being aware of where I am, what I am doing, how I am feeling about where I am and what I am doing and FOCUSING on what I am seeking to acheive is what defines my level of success.

I LOVE to swim and would do so every day if I had the time to do so...note to self, start saving for a lap pool -- then time is not an excuse when you can walk out of the backdoor into the water! (Until then, continue to schedule that time for yourself and use the one at the YMCA! LOL!) Report
Success is challenging yourself and getting results - no excuses- in order to improve your life. Dancing is one form of exercise I do just because I love it. It requires nothing but throwing my hands in the air and twisting my body. Report
I really struggle with this. So often I give up or don't try something because I'm not, and never will be, good at it. I've always been this way - I don't like doing things I'm not good at. That's so prideful and it gets in my way all the time, but I'm trying to manage it Report
I like my karate classes. I'm just starting out and have a test coming up on Friday (eek!) to progress to the next rank. At 50 years of age, most people have their black belt by now (if they've stuck with it) and are teaching classes of their own.

As Jen said in the blog, I go because I love it. I love the feeling of knowing I "aced" a kata, or was able to participate in a kumite (directed fighting where no one gets hurt) without blinking and without distraction.

It's about how it makes you feel when all is said and done. That's it. Find what you love and hang what anyone else says. Report
I swim for stress relief. I haven't gone in a while (which may be part of the reason I've been sooo stressed!), but whenever I do, it's not for the aerobic's for the emotional benefit. :) Report
Great post . . . I started taking harp lessons last year with this attitude. I told my teacher that it had to be FUN . . . I didn't care if we worked on the same song for a month. So far, I am sticking with it and it's still fun. Report
This blog reminds me of The Slowest Loser group, whose motto is similar to what is expressed here. For me, running is something I'm still learning to like, though I love the way I feel when I'm finished with a run. I don't know if I'll ever run a marathon; I'm not even sure I want to! I also like kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming...I just enjoy these activities for how I feel - strong and healthy - while I'm performing them. I don't want to be the best at these activities. I just want to enjoy them, so that I keep being active and therefore healthy. Report
That made me smile. It's so silly to think that all of us are competing to be the best at something. Best is awfully exclusive. I'm content sometimes just to do (as in completing a marathon is just fine), and sometimes with doing better than I did the time before (although in running that's just not going to happen as I get older and older). Report
i can't tell you what a delight it is to read these comments from another noncompetative person. For i, too, am never going to be a front-or-the-pack ANYTHING when it comes to running - or walking - or skipping or what-have you. But that doesn't mean i don't enjoy it or try to get better at doing it. But i simply don't have that need to be first. And i have long ago decided that this is ok, and that i don't need to be in the front of the pack to be successful. Sometimes success is just showing up! Report
Success is measured by ourselves. It is a very individule measurement. I believe you are successful when you get out there and finish what ever you started. Does not matter how long it takes. Thanks for a great post. Report
It is wonderful when we can feel in the joy of simply doing something--whatever it is. I think it is at these moments when we celebrate our life to the fullest. It is all about what we do and accomplish, which is not about winning over other people. It is about competing with ourselves and becoming our very best and being happy with that. Life is good!! :) Thanks for this thoughtful blog, Sylvia Report
I love dancing even though I know that I will never be a professional dancer. It's like running. When I was running, I really enjoyed it. I wasn't fast, never will be. I just enjoyed being outside with my thoughts. Unfortunately, due to an injury, I spend more time on a bike with my thoughts instead. So, no more running.

I don't worry about trying to be the best at something. Some things I will try just because they look like fun. I know there are people who believe only elite runners should run in marathons. That people who run 8-12 min miles just aren't good enough to run. Says who ? Really, who gets to decide who is and isn't athletic ?

As far as I am concerned, athletes (like everyone else) come in many different sizes, shapes and abilities. You don't have to be an elite athlete to be athletic. Report
Competing with yourself is far more important. Constantly striving to improve on your best is a greater achievement than beating someone else. I started the team Completer NOT Competer for those of us who will never win, but want to feel and be successful on our own terms. Report
A couple years ago I started doing triathlons. I wasn't fast by any means, but I had tons of fun! My first goal was just to complete the race. Since then, I've set little time goals for myself - not to beat anyone else, but to beat my old times. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, but I still have fun. Plus, having races to work towards gives me extra motivation to get my workouts in! Report
After having a knee injury, I considered it a personal success to complete my first half marathon a year after the surgery. After an injury you start to appreciate the things that you took for granted before, like being able to run without pain, no matter what the pace is. Not giving up, having patience and working towards realistic but challenging goals is a success in itself. Daring to try and believing in yourself is a success. Report
Doing what I can within my abilities defines success to me. I have COPD so know I will never be a runner but I don't let what I can not do keep me from doing what I can do. I am doing more today than I ever thought was possible and to me that is definitely a success. Report
"When you know you’ll never be the best at something, how do you define success?"
I define my sucess through my hard work and knowing that I have done my best and put forth my best effort.
"Are there any physical activities you do just because you like them, and not because you feel like you should?"
Yes, there are a few physical activites that I do to increase my Cardio strength and to help me tone my body. I especially do not like the pull-down bars for the upper part of the body, but I do them because I know thatin the long run I will enjoy the benefits
I'll never be the best in my drama or singing classes, but I consider myself a roaring success because I would not have dreamed of doing either a year ago. Report