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Instinct For Meaning: My Journey to 100 Miles

Instinct For Meaning my journey to 100 miles

Meaning is heavy.

You’ve felt it.

Haven’t you?

It’s the highest good of your existence, that place where your passions and curiosities interact musically with the history and future of our world.

A chill up your spine, tears in your eyes, anger climbing your face, your laugh bouncing from person to person, lighting a room: meaning is manifested in passion. You can feel it in emotionally charged actions and responses.

Humans have an instinct for meaning.

We are biologically and spiritually inclined to pursue the highest good of our existence; our ears are tuned to that musical interaction of our passions and curiosities with the history and future of the world.

Do not neglect this instinct, this inclination.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and watch life pass by. Everyone else does it. Our potential for significance, for the fulfillment of meaning in our lives, is lost in a social blur of images and captions and distraction and work. We work and life goes on. We work for money, for satisfaction, and for opinions, and life goes on. We’re distracted by voices and sounds and flashing images and what comes next.

We get caught up in that social blur and our instinct for meaning, our biological and spiritual appetite for pursuit, is numbed. It’s like a taste bud that has danced with sugar for years, always yearning for that sweet relief from the boredom of existence with all the other taste buds. We need the stimulation to keep pace with the lie of culture: culture says satisfaction is found in the eyes and mouths of other people.

And so, we fall in line; we dance with the sugar of images and captions and distractions and work. Just like everyone else.

Do you realize the damage you’re doing?

When your instinct for meaning is numbed, when you cannot put to canvas your passions and visions of excellence, you forgo responsibility.

You forgo the responsibility to the person you are called to be.

That person exists. He or she is out there, in some future Earth, expertly living out your meaning, your purpose.

What will it take to become that person?



Decide to feed your instinct for meaning. Life will not just happen. If you are waiting for a new home, a new job, a new car, a new friend, a new relationship, a new inspiration, or a new motivation, I have news for you: the person you are called to be, that person you are responsible for, is dying. He or she is fading away, lost and never to be born.

Your indecision and laziness, your passive approach to fulfillment, is slowly cutting the throat of that future you.

You are responsible for his or her wellness. That person might exist forever in some mental dimension of regret, of instinct ignored and challenge left for another day. Indecision, laziness, and passiveness are toxins of culture, a culture eager to feed on your unfulfilled and meaningless life.

Culture slips these into your days, poisoning your environment.

You are responsible to keep the person you are called to be tangible; live a concise, intentional, active, and curious life for the sake of that future you.

Anything less leaves you dancing with that social blur of eyes and ears intoxicated with the idols of culture: expectations, opinions, regrets, addiction, self-worship.

Find a Wicked Trail, that place in your mind where challenge and adversity serve as allies to your growth instead of obstructions to your complacent existence; take responsibility for pursuit and adventure.

Watch me cross the finish line after nearly 30 hours:


Acting, doing things to move your present self toward purpose, is the only path.

You must identify that moment in your life where your instinct called out, where you were moved to visualize a future of more of the same feeling.

Your instinct for meaning was begging relevance, calling for a place at your table. Your physiology (crying, getting the chills, laughing) often points toward your instinct for meaning; you must notice and file these moments away.

Your future self depends on it.

For me, it was the finish line of my first 100 mile race.

The 6 weeks leading up to my first 100 mile ultra marathon, the Burning River 100, an Achilles injury left me running a frightfully low 7 times.

That’s right: 7 runs.

And none of those were longer than 5 miles.

I ran less than 35 miles in the 6 weeks leading up to my first 100.

And when I crossed that finish line 8 minutes before the final cut-off, my pain and nausea and fatigue was only paled by the massive feeling of accomplishment despite probability.

“If I could do that, what else am I capable of?”

This question captivated me. I saw the Taller Peak (have you seen it?) and knew my direction. The question morphed into some exploration of my mind and body and our natural world, and a desire to inspire people to inspire themselves through radical challenge and commitment.

That’s the path I’m on.

It started with war stories bringing tears to my eyes and sending patriotic shudders down my back. I didn’t ignore those emotions; I continued to admire and study men and women of incredible bravery and commitment. When one David Goggins, whom I had followed since his rise to ultra marathon significance, asked the question “Why haven’t you done it yet?” I responded by signing up for an ultra marathon.

Those decisions, pandering to some primordial instinct for meaning and fulfillment, were the first steps to crossing the finish line at Burning River.

I have a responsibility to some future-me, some strong and fast and kind and community-driven runner of miles and writer of words, miles and words I know will help me answer one simple question: “What else am I capable of?”

If I don’t answer that question, if I had ignored David’s, or if I had disregarded my admiration of bravery and courage in the line of duty, my present life would look much different.

I sit here, writing this article, glad I had not ignored my instinct for meaning.

Welcome to the Wicked Trail…

Click Here to read about Shawn Livingston’s path toward meaning and his mission. WARNING: Extreme Inspiration Likely.

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