I’ve worn glasses or contact lenses since the second grade, and until I graduated from high school my eye-sight deteriorated on a yearly basis. All of the eye docs I saw would rewrite my prescription for glasses or contacts every time I went in, and I was very happy for this. Somewhere along the line, my eyes stabilized (even improved) and I’ve had the same prescription since 2005. Over the past several years, I’ve been very happy with my contacts and have not had any issues whatsoever – indeed, I recognize my good fortune. I have night-and-day contacts which I wear for 60+ days straight without ever taking them out, and it is a rare instance to see me wearing my glasses. The point? I recently went in to my current eye doctor (great guy who I trust very much) to just get a rewritten prescription and order another 2 boxes of lenses to get me through another year or two. I had zero complaints, no issues, and near perfect vision with my contacts in, and yet I walked out of that eye appointment with 5 (FIVE!!!) (5!!!!) new contact lens options to try. Seriously. How did that happen? I didn’t ask for them, my doc isn’t really trying to sell me anything, and I have not had any issues with my current lenses. It turns out that during the exam, the doctor noticed that my left lens ‘wasn’t sitting on my eye properly’ and thus I needed to try and find a ‘more optimal’ lens to wear.
And here’s the thing… I fell for it. I fell for the trap that I need to burn time getting everything 100% perfect, instead of operating efficiently and effectively at 99.9% of perfect. I will need 5 follow-up appointments, several phone calls to consult about my new order, and then a 5 – 10 day wait to get my new lenses. Again, I do not have ANY problems with my current contact lenses, my vision, or headaches, but someone told me that I had to try something new and I went with it. I don’t have time to cycle through 5 different options of contact lenses, or keep track of which lens I like best. I don’t have the bandwidth to set up more appointments or make more phone calls, or remember to pick up new lenses. I don’t want to wait weeks (or months) to have my new contact lenses in my possession.
I fell for the trap that I refer to as ‘the burden of self improvement’. Seeking perfection hinders action. The continual focus on self–improvement becomes a burden for so many. I wonder how many of us waste our most precious resource (time) trying to optimize things that don’t truly matter. How does this overlap with running? Think about it:
1. Road shoes vs. trail shoes vs. smaller size vs. bigger size vs. Gore-Tex shoes vs. white shoes vs. dark shoes vs colorful shoes vs. light-weight shoes vs. jogging shoes vs. favorite shoes.
2. Keeping track of how many miles you have on all those pairs of shoes.
3. GPS Units. Long battery life vs. shorter battery life vs. too much function vs. not enough function vs. Garmin vs. Polar vs. Suunto vs. Highgear vs. what Tony wears vs. what Kilian wears. Does Geoff Rose wear a watch?
4. Instagram vs. Twitter vs. Hootsuite vs. Facebook vs. Google+ (yes, that’s still around) vs. Strava, vs. MyFitness Pal vs. MapMyRun vs. my personal Facebook page vs. my athlete Facebook page. (Can I tweet that?)
5. Tech shirt vs. flannel vs. Nike vs. Arc vs. Gore vs. Brooks. Which shirt breathes the most? The best? I need something warmer, but not too warm. This is my shirt that I wear on a 35 degree day, but this is my 31 degree day shirt.
6. I find that when I eat Paleo I tend to gain muscle but lose fat. Is that good? What about when I eat vegan? Isn’t that better for my stride? I feel more efficient when I eat sausage. Dude, do they have beer at those aid stations?
7. Whoa – wear can I order one of those stickers? My life won’t be complete without that sticker for a brand that I don’t even know and have never used.
8. What is your favorite running podcast? Can I sync that on all my devices at the same time? What if I change between iPods mid-run, do my pod-casts sync?
9. Bro – are those Julbo sunglasses? I hear they fog less than my Rudy Projects. My Oakley shades are four years old – before carbon fiber. They seem a bit heavy. Can I get a pro-deal through your brother?
10. I have subscriptions for 9 running publications – I hope to get tips out of each one, every day.
11. My GoPro only syncs with a better WiFi connection. Starbucks’ WiFi is too slow to upload video. My home WiFi is too slow, maybe I need to upgrade.
12. I’ve got this sweet app that measures how well I sleep, if I remember to turn it on. Damn – now my phone is out of battery life. Now I need to buy another phone and another portable charger.
13. If I can’t sleep more than 4 hours per night, do you think that will negatively impact my training and racing? Maybe I should just go ‘all-in’ and sign up for 9 x 100 mile races this spring? Good?
This post is not meant to mock effort or tear-down people looking to fundamentally improve, but rather to highlight the need to focus on the essential. I’ve been there before with ALL of those bullet-points and I’m tired of living that way. The truly successful and fulfilled are those that focus on the few core essentials that actually matter. For running?: A. Run nearly every day. B. Run most of your mileage at a relatively easy effort. C. Run 1 day per week at a faster pace or harder effort. D. Focus on sleeping enough. E. Focus on eating real food. F. Find one thing to change or improve per year and go for it. G. Build fitness and focus on running. Actual running. Moving forward, I aim to optimize the actual physical act of running this year while being okay with pushing other things to the periphery. Oh, and I’m keeping my old contact lenses out of protest. Love these things. Time to focus more, be distracted less, and enjoy the pursuit of goals without the burden of self–improvement weighing me down. Thanks for reading. DC