66 Days and Counting: Beat the Finish Line Blues by Starting Again

Congratulations on reaching this, the final day of your 66 Day Challenge. Chances are, if you’ve come this far, you’re either reached your goal and established a routine or you’re nearly there. “So,” you might be thinking, “This is it. I’m supposed to be happy and successful now, right?”

Well, yes and no. It depends on how you view your finish line.

Although many people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they reach their goals, it’s also not uncommon to feel unmoored. Brett Sutton, a personal trainer to many world-class triathletes reports that often after an athlete qualifies for the Kona Ironman World Championships, they feel like they’re “done.” Their motivation slumps. Even with one of the world’s premier races ahead of them, they focused so long on qualifying that they irrationally never thought about the next steps after that goal.

In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes a thinking pattern that he calls the “arrival fallacy.” When someone thinks, “When I finally arrive at X destination, I’ll be happy,” they are falling trap to this fallacy. This way of thinking is a harmful because we’re not always happier when we reach the end of our journey. We think that once we do the pull ups, get the promotion, or take the vacation we’ll be better off. But that’s not always true.

When we’ve been thinking about and planning reaching our destination for so long it may not actually feel like foreign territory when we reach it. In some ways, when we’re on track to hit our goals and have become accustomed to our new routines, our success can feel like a foregone conclusion. When we inevitably cross the finish line, we’re left feeling a bit aimless. The sense of purpose that has directed our actions now feels as if it’s evaporated. But this feeling comes from looking at the finish line as the end.

You see: the finish line for one goal is really your next starting line.

There are two ways you can move forward in your journey. The first, as we’ve discussed, is to think back to your purpose. Although I’m not a world-class athlete, for the past 10 years I’ve competed in local triathlons. After my first few races, I’d walk my bike back to my car, all sweaty and covered in dust with a new medal to add to my collection, and I would fall prey to the arrival fallacy. To combat it, I had to really ask myself why I was bothering to compete in the first place. I needed to define my success.

To define your success, we recommend asking two questions:

1. What outcome do I want to achieve now and in the future?

2. What is the purpose behind achieving those outcomes?

By understanding your immediate and long-term goal, and the reason why achieving that goal is important, you’re given two things: A potential path toward success and the wisdom needed to discern between success and failure along the way.

For me, completing a triathlon isn’t about getting a medal. The actual races are simply a means by which I can hold myself accountable to a consistent workout schedule and a baseline level of health. If I stopped running, swimming, and biking just because I’d achieved my desired outcome (race day!) then I’d eventually lose all the gains I’d made in my personal health journey.

I have come to understand that the medals are nice milestones, but what’s more important are the runs I take on the days when there is no finish line, no one handing out medals. This perspective keeps me away from the arrival fallacy and on a continued path of maintaining my habits.

Completing your 66-Day Challenge doesn’t have to be your finish line. If you want to embark on your next challenge or work to maintain your new habit, download our 66-Day Challenge® calendar, and surround yourself with like-minded people in The ONE Thing community.

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