“[These] people do their work as a druid does, in an awareness of wonder. With a knowledge that the breath of the gods flows through their bodies and quickens their blood.”
– Seer of Sevenwaters, Juliett Marillier
Over the past few years, I’ve been volunteering as an assistant cross country coach at our local high school. This year, the very persuasive head coach (who also happens to be my husband) convinced me to help out with track and field as well. Before winter break, we met with our distance runners to review their pre-season training plans, and we did something new—we asked them to write down their philosophies about running.
High school distance runners can tend to be a little hyper-focused on goals and successes, building their robust resumes, and getting into good colleges. These days, youth sports are more intense and competitive than ever, with kids, parents and coaches all pushing and prodding for more, better, faster.
But the handwritten statements we received back from our runners were heartening. When asked, “Why do you do what you do?” these kids answered:
“I will use running to better myself and my character.”
“I run to push myself not only athletically, but in my everyday life.”
“Running makes me appreciate nature, my environment and the community.”
“I run because it gives me an escape and helps me cope with and appreciate other aspects of my life”
“I run because it gives me a sense of self-improvement that transfers over into other things.”
“Running is my retreat and keeps my mind, body and soul healthy.”
“Running is vital to creating harmony and balance in my life and gives me peace of mind.”
“It allows me to stay positive in times of difficulty.”
“I run because I love to run. I enjoy every moment, even the hard races and workouts.”
“Running is my happy place. It is what I do when I need to think about everything, or nothing at all.”
Anyone who has ever run 6+ miles a day on a regular basis knows that the above phrases capture the attitude needed to keep running a joyful thing, rather than a grueling, stressful or mundane task.
Still, I couldn’t help but be inspired by these philosophies. They reminded me yet again that it isn’t the what that’s most important in our lives, but the why and the how matter too.
In our busy modern lives, we often skim the surface. What we do can easily become rote and shallow, and it’s easy to become apathetic. But crafting a philosophy for why we do what we do and the way we want to do it, and continually restating the values that guide us, can help us live deeper.
As legendary distance coach Joe Vigil puts it, “You must develop a deep vision and total commitment because then, and only then, will you develop a deeper perspective of life in general.”
So today I’m inspired to revisit the meaning behind why I do what I do, to continue to shape my own philosophies about my work, coaching, running, creativity… and life in general. I’m writing down my philosophies and pinning them up on my office wall. The start of a new year, of course, is the perfect time to do this. I invite you to join me!
To help with this effort, please check out the Flora of Meaning & Mystery, a visual manifesto to inspire your creativity and sense of wonder. It’s my free gift for you this January, and it comes with my best wishes for a wonderful year.