When I was in my early 30’s I had a young, highly spirited Golden Retriever and I learned that she needed to run in order to have any semblance of calm for the rest of the day. (That’s a picture of us before a race day.)
I would run with her almost every day, and on the trails I made a running buddy – another woman who also had a highly spirited dog. If I were just on my own with Zoe I would run at a very leisurely pace (I had never been a runner at all before Zoe), but this buddy was a very seasoned runner and I had to push myself to keep up with her (and her dog, and my dog).
I learned from her that I could run fast – if pushed. She encouraged me to run in my first road races, too. Eventually she even convinced me to run my first marathon. I ended up running four marathons at a very speedy pace (my personal best was finishing the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes – which averages out to be a 7-and-a-half-minute mile!). If it had not been for that running buddy, I never would have known that I could run fast—and run marathons, to boot. In every important way, that buddy was like a great coach.
So—you’ve probably heard the saying that life is a marathon, not a sprint. I think that’s true. At any rate, it’s a "slow and steady wins the race” kind of life I want you to consider, with an emphasis on “slow and steady,”
Oh, and an emphasis on “wins.”
“Slow and steady” can propel you to a win, but only if you use some specific tactics along the way.
The first tactic is “deliberate practice.” That’s what Florida State University psychology professor Ander Ericsson calls a “lifelong period of…effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”
He goes on to say that, “Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher every time.”
As the example of my running buddy shows, it’s really hard to know how high you can reach if you don’t know someone stronger than you and farther along on the path. But if you have such a person in your life, they can give you constant, constructive feedback—explicit feedback, in which they tell you how to improve, and the unspoken feedback in which they show you something can be done if you can just figure out how. You need both kinds for long-term success.
Long-term success also requires that we keep in touch with our values. Often burnout occurs because we don’t align our actions with what we truly believe. So if you feel stuck, ask yourself, “What gets me up in the morning?” and “What keeps me up at night?” Try to come up with an answer that matches for both – this will show you what gives your life meaning and direction. (If you don’t like the answer, like “Pay my bills.” try again until you find something that truly satisfies you.)
One final tactic you should get a handle on: preparation. Everyone experiences frustrations and disappointments along the road to their dreams. But successful dreamers prepare for these challenges mentally (and perhaps physically). Yes, that life-long race can be exhausting sometimes, and that’s why so many drop out. But if you want to keep going, accept that you will feel exhausted—and plan for that contingency.
Tell yourself you’ll take break, but you won’t give up. Make sure that you set strict parameters around what will constitute your break before you take it, and then make sure to get right back on track. (If getting back on track looks like too high a hurdle, think about talking to your running buddy–or a great coach.)
One last thing: marathon runners know very well that at some point (usually at the 18 mile mark) they may “hit the wall”—they may reach the point where they’ve used every bit of their glucose reserves and will literally have no more energy to finish the race.
They know, too, that a lot of people drop out at that point. And they know that if you continue past that point, it’s usually because you are running on something other than food or water. Call it willpower, call it endurance—whatever it is, it’s more like spiritual fuel.
If you’d like to learn more ways to fuel your life from spirit, you’ll want to join us for the next Fuel Your Life from Spirit Retreat!
Again, if you need help in your own life, please take me up on my offer for a completely FREE Discover Your Purpose Strategy Session. Find out more and sign up here!
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