As the old saying goes, life is not a 100-metre dash against anyone but a lifelong marathon against yourself. What does this mean exactly? Essentially, it’s about adopting a long-term mindset focused on self-improvement rather than short-term gains over others.
Forget the Rat Race
In today’s fast-paced world, we’re often caught chasing superficial definitions of success – wealth, fame, status. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We participate in the rat race for more money, a bigger house, and a faster car. We compete to get the next promotion, accomplishment or accolade.
But this race against each other is misguided. It leads nowhere but to exhaustion. We need to realise there will always be someone faster, more affluent, more accomplished.
Run Your Own Race
Rather than chasing external validators, the metaphor of life as a marathon suggests we focus inwards and compare ourselves only to who we were yesterday.
Forget about anyone else - the only person you should compete against is yourself.
What are your personal goals? How can you improve?
Even if you’re progressing slowly, as long as you’re better than before, you’re moving in the right direction.
Keep running your race at your own pace—work on being 1% better every day rather than obsessing over those around you. Let go of jealousy, envy or feelings of inadequacy. Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
It’s Not About the Finish Line
Another aspect of the marathon mindset is realising life’s beauty lies in the journey, not the destination. A marathoner enjoys preparing well, observing the scenery, and encountering unexpected challenges. Finishing fast isn’t the sole focus.
Similarly, they only obsess a little about results. Don’t just box-tick career milestones or set goals without appreciating the small wins. Remember to relish the passage of time, even the difficult moments. Watch your children grow, nurture meaningful relationships, and master new skills.
Living is about more than chasing arbitrary finish lines. It’s a complex race from point A to B. The magic lies in learning, evolving and growing along the meandering path. Please slow down and breathe it all in.
It’s You Against You
You alone get to define what constitutes progress in your life marathon. Set your own vision. Run at your own pace. Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, reflect inward and chart your growth journey.
Aim to be better than the person you were yesterday. Competition against peers is meaningless because we all have different starting lines and challenges. It’s you against you. Focus inward, be grateful for the present and keep putting one foot before the other.
The only race against time is ensuring you wisely invest every precious moment. Life is indeed not a sprint but a self-transcending marathon.