Shall We Meander?

When I go out on a trail run, I plan my route beforehand and, unless there is something monstrous blocking my path, I stay on my route. This makes sense to me – I know where I’m going, I know how far I am going, and I don’t need to stop along the way for any reason.

When my husband comes with me, things look very different. He has no plan. He moves through the woods by some sort of internal compass, making decisions as he goes. For many years, this has frustrated me. When we head out together, we have no idea how long it will take, how far we will go, where we might end up, and we need to stop multiple times along the way to decide which way to turn. 

As you can imagine, this has often led to us taking divergent paths!

However, as I think about it now, I realize this was not just a difference in the way we make decisions (I always like to plan ahead and he does not), but a fundamental difference in our goals. When I go out for a run, my goal is to get exercise and to think through any issues that might be going on at the moment. My processing is internal and my pace is quick. My husband’s goal is to explore the area and observe the environment. His movements are meandering and his pace is slower. I’m sure you can imagine the eye rolls when I need to slow my pace as he decides to head off the established path!

What is happening is that we set out with incompatible goals and expectations. Once I realize this, I then have a choice about how to proceed. If my priority that day is to get in a run for my own health reasons, I am better off going by myself. If my priority that day is to spend time with my husband, then heading into the woods with him is a great way to do that. And, either choice is fine. 

When we are clear about our goals and can articulate them, we are better able to make informed decisions and avoid the frustration and disappointment that follows when our expectations aren’t met – in this case, either I feel like my workout was short-changed or our “quality” time together ends in an argument.  

Once we stop making assumptions that others’ goals are the same as ours and start communicating our expectations, we will be better equipped to shift our expectations and make decisions that are in line with our goals. 

Putting this into practice, today my husband and I took a roundabout walk through the woods and it was wonderful!

Clarify your goals and communicate your expectations!

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