I am a late-blooming runner, having taken up the sport 4 years ago.  I ran my first half marathon in late September 2010 and, even though I’m over 40, I am committed to extend my distance and improve my time.  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 left hamstring is tightening (it’s my special 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 preparing for another 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’re in the heat of your busy season having just passed an important milestone and preparing for the next big push to complete your spring race 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.  Has that happened to you this busy season?

If so, summon the mental toughness needed to finish your busy season, or the project you are immersed in, or the race you’re running by:

  • Getting present to your blessings.  Whatever you are facing right now in your personal quest, it is unlikely to match the challenges faced by the Japanese this past week and for the months, perhaps years, to come.  We have so many big and little things to be grateful for each day.
  • Devising 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 plan to repeat the word “Joy” when I feel most stressed or tired, so I can remember that my work most often brings true joy to me and to others.  And, for my spring racing season, I plan to repeat the word “Faster” when my endurance is being tested, as I intend to complete my two major races with my fastest times so far.
  • Remembering why you’re running or working so hard – your reason for being. 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?
  • Asking 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 until your busy period ends.  Right size your commitments and reset expectations with others if you are dropping balls. 
  • Resting – 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. 
  • Recognizing that every race ends and an opportunity to rest and regroup will appear.  Summon 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!