Category Archives: Goals

Gifts Make Me Uncomfortable

My birthday was a little less than a week ago. I figure it’s a good time to talk about gifts. We give gifts for various occasions and no particular occasion at all.

I enjoy giving gifts. Seeing the joy and appreciation on a family member or friends face is fantastic. Giving anonymously feels good too, though, even when you’ll never know whether it was even appreciated.

So, given that I enjoy giving gifts, it’s odd how uncomfortable I am with receiving gifts. I know that the person giving me the gift likely gets the same kind of pleasure I do from the act of giving, but it doesn’t make it easier for me to accept gifts. And I’m not talking about any particular gift or any particular gift giver. It’s pretty consistent for most gifts.

I don’t know when it started or what did it. But nearly every time someone gives me something outside of an exchange, it makes me uncomfortable.

I know gift giving isn’t usually reciprocal, at least not on the occasions I have in mind. On my birthday, in this culture and my family traditions, I’m not expected to give gifts to guests. I receive birthday presents. But even on Christmas when it is usually expected to be a gift exchange, I’m uncomfortable receiving.

I can’t really explain the exact feelings. Sometimes I feel a little guilty when receiving a gift. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I should reciprocate, even when the occasion doesn’t call for it.

And sometimes it’s not so much guilt. I actually feel indebted. I know there’s no expectation in most of the cases. I still feel like I owe them some sort of debt. Sometimes even on Christmas when I have reciprocated, regardless of comparative monetary values.

It also makes me feel a little like the way I feel about asking for help. I don’t like to ask for help, even though I like helping people, and I know other people feel the same way about helping me. But I’m working on becoming better at asking for and accepting help.

I read a book on gratitude last year that was sort of an academic look at the history of gratitude in different cultures throughout history. In some cultures, gifts have been used to put another into your debt. Gifts have been used to signify power structures as well, with gifts flowing in either direction. And in other cultures gifts nearly always require reciprocation.

So perhaps it’s partially an inborn trait. Or if you accept the idea of genetic memory, maybe that explains at least some of it.

I just know that gifts have made me uncomfortable for a long time. But like I’ve been doing with asking for and accepting help, I’ve also been working on my feelings about accepting gifts.

They’re related too. Giving help is one kind of gift, and it’s given without expectations, beyond maybe gratitude. So as I get better at accepting help, I think I’ll get better at accepting gifts as well.

Positive Thinking and Positive Self-Talk

I got into positive thinking and positive self-talk a few years ago. I find them useful. Contrary to what some people say, it’s not about lying to yourself. It’s not about believing the impossible. Everything isn’t always great. Positive thinking is about seeing opportunities in obstacles, and finding lessons in hardships. Yes, it’s about looking on the bright side. Accept the negative and move forward while keeping a positive mindset, but to get results beyond that, you have to take action as well.

Positive self-talk is a way to support yourself in your pursuit of becoming more. More doesn’t have to be faster, bigger, stronger, thinner, or wealthier. It can be as simple as being happier, accomplishing a specific task or goal, or just being more grateful for what you already are and have.

Positive self-talk is another tool to use when things get difficult, you feel down, or things aren’t going how you want. It’s accepting what is, while acknowledging that the situation is temporary, and you have the strength to outlast it until things improve or create improvement.

Acceptance alone isn’t enough for me. I like to remind myself that I’m capable of great things and often add visualization to my positive self-talk.

I have a number of statements that I use in different situations. I call them affirmations, but they could also be mantras, chants, oaths, testimonies, prayers, or whatever you want. Sometimes it’s just about having something to focus on to make positive changes to my mindset.

There was a period of time when I was convinced that I was not going to live much past my 40s, maybe 50s, that I would become sick, miserable and die. Then it started to happen. I was already miserable, which certainly didn’t help my outlook on the future. I started to get quite sick, and I was getting worse.

When I decided that being sick wasn’t part of who I am and being healthy was, I started to see opportunities to support my health and began taking action. I started changing food habits, running and taking responsibility for my own health. Doctors told me it didn’t matter what I ate, but I noticed symptoms got much worse after eating fatty foods, especially when I was dehydrated. I learned more, became more self-aware about my body and its reactions to different things and made further changes.

The positive changes in my mindset and the actions I took built on one another to nearly eliminate my previous symptoms, stop all the medications I was taking, getting into the best shape of my life, and have a much better outlook for my future.

I’ve said it before, but I hated running when I was in the Army. A couple years after I got out, I started running again. I got injured a lot over the first few years, didn’t think I’d ever be very fast and really just had a limited view of what my running potential.

When I started telling myself that I was fast, strong and a good runner, believing it, and learning more from others and what’s worked for myself, my training started going better, injuries decreased, motivation improved. I’ve even expanded my running self-image since then. I exceeded my increased expectations a couple times too.

When I’m out running and it starts getting tough, whether I’m having trouble concentrating, I keep tripping, I feel some imbalance or twinge, I get stiff, sore, tired, or I just hit a low patch, I came up with an affirmation that brings my focus back to my body, running form, foot placement, breath and the to moment in general. “I’m strong, fast, flexible, efficient and sure footed. I’m built for long-distance running over uneven terrain.” If I’m feeling tense somewhere and having trouble releasing it, I’ll add “relaxed” after “efficient”. It works great for me. My concentration improves, I relax, and start to feel lighter on my feet. It doesn’t suddenly give me a boost of energy or make me faster. My mind comes back to the current task of running.

It’s sort of like trying to read a book and watch TV at the same time. If you focus solely on the book, you won’t catch much of what’s happening on the TV. If you let too much of the TV take over your focus, you’ll have trouble reading. My running affirmation focuses me and reminds me that I’m capable of more. Whatever the current difficulty, I can get through it.

Positive thinking and positive self-talk are both great tools for increasing your vision of your potential. But on their own, the best you can hope for is an improved mood. To actually get results with them, you have to take action.

2016 Running Goals

◆    Finish Cascade Crest 100 mi
◆    500,000 ft elevation gain
⁃    The way the year is starting out, I’m not sure about this one. But I’ll keep it on the list anyway.

◆    Traverse Baring Mtn, Barclay Lk, Eagle Lk, Townsend Mtn, Flapjack Pt, Eagle Rock & back to TH (~21.5 mi, 13,000ft gain.)
⁃    This is a carry over from last year. I don’t know how possible it is. I’ll count it if I do Baring and Townsend together at the very least.

◆    Mt. Stickney from Wallace Falls side

◆    De Roux/Teanaway 50 mi
⁃    There are several partially similar routes I’m looking at in the Teanaway area. I’d like to do one of them this year.

◆    PCT section J

◆    Enchantments

◆    Bulls Tooth Loop and Peak

◆    Lake Dorothy, Bear Lake, Deer Lake, Taylor River, Middle Fork Snoqualmie, Dingford Creek, Myrtle Lake Loop
⁃    I’ll start at the Lake Dorothy TH, but I may do the loop in the other direction.


I decided not to make a mileage goal for the year. I think last year I was way too focused on getting the mileage. I hope to do more than 2015. And as long as I don’t miss any large chunks of time with injuries, I think I’ll do it.

2015 Running Goal Recap

These were my running goals for 2015. The back injury got in the way of a few. I’m still happy with my performance and progress for the year.

    ◆    3000 miles for the year
⁃    It was going to be close if I hadn’t missed two whole months of running with my back injury. I ended with 2,247.9 mi. Still more than 2014. It was a challenging goal. I’m more disappointed that I missed those two months and couldn’t make the push to hit it than not hitting it. I prefer a challenge to something easy, anyway.

    ◆    400,000 ft gain for the year
⁃     I would have hit it had I not missed those two months. I ended up with 327,513 ft of gain.

    ◆    Complete my first 100 miler
⁃    I didn’t make it. GI issues and the weather were too much for me to handle. One or the other would have been ok. Both were to much. I took a DNF at 68 mi. My legs still felt good, which was a good confidence booster that my training was good.

    ◆    Run the Pacific Crest Trail Section J solo in one shot, Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass
⁃    Scheduling and some minor aches and pain got in the way this year. This will go back on my list for 2016.

    ◆    Negative split an ultra
⁃    I completed this goal early in the year at Bridle Trails 50k. I had a great race. I ran each of the 6 laps within 1 min of 40 min and ran the last half slightly faster than the first.

    ◆    First 100 mile training week (not including the 100 miler)
⁃    My biggest non-race week was 84 mi. I’m not sure if I care to continue pursuing this goal. I plan to add in more cross training, so I’m not sure.

    ◆    Run everyday
⁃    This was going very well until my back injury. I made it over 1 year total, August 13, 2014 through October 3, 2015. But I didn’t make it all of 2015. I might not keep running everyday and do more cross training instead. Try to keep my running days longer and bike or elliptical on off days.

    ◆    Run to Upper Wallace Falls 50 times in the year
⁃    I made this way earlier than I expected. I think I ended up with 58 trips to the upper falls, and the last one was in September.

    ◆    Wallace Falls everyday for a week
⁃    I was saving this one for the fall. Another goal lost to the back injury. I may or may not carry this one over.

    ◆    Lake Serene quad (~28 mi, 10,400 ft gain)
⁃    I decided I didn’t care about this goal and scratched it.

    ◆    Traverse Baring Mtn, Barclay Lk, Eagle Lk, Townsend Mtn, Flapjack Pt, Eagle Rock & back to TH (~21.5 mi, 13,000ft gain.)
⁃    I just didn’t fit this one in. I will keep it on the list.

    ◆    Run up to peak of Mount Stickney from Wallace Falls side
⁃    I attempted it a couple times, but didn’t quite make it. I’ll keep this on the list too.

    ◆    5:30 1 mile
⁃    After my attempt early in the year when I did 5:32, I didn’t try again. Speed became much less of a priority than mileage and vert. I still want to make it, I’m just not sure if it’s enough of a priority to make it to my 2016 list.

    ◆    Sub 18 min 5k
⁃    I did a solo time trial 5k in 18:12 early in the year, when I also did my fastest 1 mi. I didn’t try again for the same reasons as I didn’t try again at 1 mi either.

    ◆    Traverse Mt Persis, Persindex, Mt Index
⁃    They closed the access road, which adds about 5 mi one way just to get to the trail. I decided it wasn’t worth it with so many other more accessible places. This will go on to the maybe someday list.

Perfect vs Good

I’m doing things a little different with this post. I posted a video to my new YouTube channel on this same topic, which will be linked at the end. I won’t double up like this for all future posts, but may do it occasionally. Read below, watch the video, or do both.


I’ve put off many things waiting to gather more information, get better gear, the right situation and so on. While being more prepared is usually a good thing, and different circumstances might make things easier, it’s still usually just another form of procrastination.

Last week I was reading something and was reminded of something Voltaire said (though he was likely relating an ancient saying), “perfect is the enemy of the good.” Incremental improvements take increasingly more effort and time the better things become. In economics it’s called diminishing marginal returns.

One form of the Perfect vs Good problem is Analysis Paralysis. It’s really just procrastination under the guise of due diligence, a way to feel productive without accomplishing much of any worth.

When you wait for circumstances to be “right” or “enough” information, you hang the possibility of success on the external world over which you have no control. In the meantime, you could have started, accumulated results over the otherwise wasted time, and learned from your experiences. Rather than reading everything you can about the topic, you can figure out the exact information you need to solve actual problems and further grow.

In the case of any online endeavor that relies on building an audience, like my new YouTube channel (or a blog, e-commerce site, freelancing, etc.), if I started 3 months ago when I had the idea the basic means to get going, I’d already have 3 months in front of people; 3 months of comments and criticisms; 3 months of honing my message, narrowing or expanding my target audience; and so on.

While I waited for the perfect situation to start, no one knew about it, I could only guess about possible obstacles, and I missed any opportunities that may have come about with action. And it’s not like any information that I thought I needed wouldn’t be there if and when I actually needed it. I’d probably be able to understand it better with experience as well.

Don’t let the feeling that you need more information, better gear, the right time, the right circumstances, the right anything be excuses holding you back from what you want. You don’t need to read 50 more articles or blogs on healthy eating to start right now. You don’t need equipment or a trainer to start working on your fitness goals. You don’t need to learn how to build a webpage from scratch to start a blog or online business.

There’s also a real chance that you will fail. Or maybe you’ll figure out that it’s not actually something that you want to do. In either case, it’s better to figure it out sooner rather than later, not waste all that extra time preparing, and move on to the next thing.

How much Good are you willing to give up chasing after a Perfect that may not even be attainable? Get started.