Actually, Life is Nothing Like a Marathon

July 18, 2022

You’re on a journey. You’re going somewhere. Some of us are building startups or organizations, others are designing programs or careers. But I often sense that many of us get caught chasing after a future goal as if we are in a marathon, where the everyday becomes routine. For others, you might feel the everyday is more like a treadmill you can’t escape from. I’ve personally experienced both sides of the same coin.

We either forget to pause, look around, and ask ourselves if we are truly fulfilled or we find ourselves debilitated, completely unable to stop the march of time to give our mind and body the space they need for self-inquiry. Our daily reading consists of productivity hacks or the latest self-care trends, neither of which strike at the root of the problem we’re facing.

Occasionally we’ll come across someone who seems to have attained so-called fulfillment. There’s a certain sparkle in their eyes. They’ve opted not to march in the marathon. They’ve decided to jump off of the treadmill. Our minds immediately think they have reached their destination or hit the jackpot. But what if they haven’t hit the jackpot and there’s something else at work we’re missing?

Let’s consider those who have attained fulfillment not by reaching a monumental goal, but, dare I say, they have found satisfaction and wholeness in the journey itself? They have found it’s the journey that feeds them, not what may lie at the end. They have realized the journey doesn’t have to be repetitive, cyclical, and tiresome, that there’s an alternative. The journey can be dynamic, invigorating, even vitalizing to our minds, bodies, and inner core that makes us who we are.

If you’ve ever built a business or engaged on an epic project or endeavor of any kind, you’ve probably heard someone say “it’s like a marathon.” But I’m starting to believe the journey is nothing like a marathon. The marathon adage is tired, shallow, and overdue for retirement. The journey is more like a trail run: full of surprises, variable terrain, and frequent changes in elevation.

The journey is less like a marathon and more like a trail run, loaded with different terrains, surprises around each corner, and frequent changes in elevation.

When we begin to view everything as though “it’s like a marathon,” we open the door to workaholism as we train our minds and bodies to ignore the pain and “just fight through it.” There are certainly times when you’ll have to do this in your journey, but consistently breaking down the body without allowing time for healing and reflection are a fast track to numbness, a loss of passion, and ultimately burnout. Instead, we should be heading in the opposite direction of building deep internal awareness, sensitivity, and connection between our daily work and our longer-term goals.

It’s no coincidence, this intentional, more awareness-based focus toward growth goes against the “move fast and break things” mantra that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg became known for. As Hemant Taneja of General Catalyst argues in HBR, the era of “move fast and break things” is over, and being replaced with socially aware and responsible practices. The same holds true at the level of your own personal journey, whatever that may be.

If we are to develop the life we want to live, we have to take the first step…off the treadmill. We have to stop pretending the life we want to live is a future goal to accomplish or a destination at mile marker 26.2. We have to confess to ourselves that fulfillment and satisfaction are synonymous with the journey itself. And we have to commit to it in daily practice.

We have to stop pretending the life we want to live is at mile marker 26.2. It’s here and now.

You might ask what is meant by daily practice? I’ll dive into daily practice in the next article, where we’ll get more practical. But, for now, finding true fulfillment through the journey comes first with a mind shift. There is no destination. There is only the journey, and the journey can be incredible.

Notion Impact is published bi-weekly by Josef Scarantino on LinkedIn and Substack. Josef can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter, or