I am about to celebrate my 10th anniversary of running. I ran my first full marathon in late September 2015 and, even though I’m “middle aged,” I am committed to extend my distance and improve my time. In fact, my motto is, “I’m not getting older – I’m getting faster!” Sometimes, and especially when I’m pushing to a new barrier, I am forced to dig deep and find the will and perseverance to keep running, even when I’m sucking wind, my right hip flexor is tightening (it’s my latest Achilles) or when the temperatures on the plains are frigid or scorching (our two main extremes in Nebraska).
At this time of the year, my team is mid-way through our own marathon of sorts – our spring busy season – which begins in April and tapers in July. During this period, we’ll travel the country visiting with clients, facilitating retreats and addressing audiences on the subject of leadership. It is a wonderful time of year, but, because of the travel and time away from our families, it requires endurance to pull it off with grace, joy and peace instead of stress, fatigue and grouchiness.
For many of our readers, you’ve just completed your spring race where you strived to deliver exceptional quality solutions, on time, on budget and in a way that makes a difference in the lives of others. So often, when we’re deep into the race, we focus so much on the effort, the pain, and the mishaps that we forget the reason we’re running in the first place. Did that happen to you this busy season?
And now, are you wondering how you’re going to gather the energy to do the proactive, practice building things needed to push your firm to the next level?
If so, summon the mental toughness needed to run a successful summer race and:
- Get present to your blessings. Whatever you are facing right now in your personal quest, it is unlikely to match the challenges faced by someone facing chemotherapy, the illness of a loved one, the diminishing capacity of age or homelessness. We have so many big and little things to be grateful for each day. Make a list of yours. Give thanks for them!
- Devise a mantra to get centered on your commitment. Long distance runners recommend having a mantra you can say to yourself whenever you feel most pinched or fatigued. For this spring’s busy season, I have been repeating the phrase, “you have been called to do this” when I feel most stressed or tired, so I can remember my purpose and commitment to serve. For my spring racing season, I have been saying the word “Faster” when my endurance is being tested, so I can drive toward personal record (PR) times in my races. This worked when I was starting to flag in my May 15th Half Marathon, where I was committed to post my fastest time yet, on a course where I’ve had my slowest Half time. When I felt tired along the way, I kept reminding myself of my commitment to be faster – sometimes saying the word faster out loud – to center my mind on the objective and allow the other noise to fall away.
- Remember why you’re running or working so hard – your reason for doing whatever you’re doing. What difference are you trying to make? What goal are you striving to accomplish? What will be better for you, your firm or others on the other end of the finish line?
- Ask for help if you need it. Ask for support if your workload is going to cause delays or missed commitments. Enroll an accountability buddy to check in with you to see how you’re doing and make sure you’re on track. Defer or reduce non-essential activities. Right size your commitments and reset expectations with others. Enroll others in your ideas and get them on board to own components of your project or plan. Take advantage of the encouragement and support that most people love to provide.
- Rest – briefly – to regroup. It’s okay to slow your pace or rest mid-race, provided that you use the respite to gather your strength for the next push.
- Recognize that every race ends and an opportunity to rest and regroup is just ahead. Gather the strength to straighten up and finish in a way you’ll be proud of – instead of apologizing for – later.
I love this quote from athlete and runner Joe Henderson:
"Your toughness is made up of equal parts persistence and experience. You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head."
What do you do to extend your mental and physical endurance? What strategies do you use to rise above your inner negativity and deliver the goods? Please share them with us!
This popular blog from March 2011 was updated and posted today because of its relevance to our many readers.