Do any of these sound familiar?
“I’m going to run a marathon.”
“I’m going to finish a triathlon.”
“I’m going to get my Ph.D.”
“I’m going to write a novel.”
“I’m going to get promoted to CEO.”
As runners (or aspiring runners), many of us are Type-A personalities and we establish some pretty lofty goals for ourselves in all areas of our lives. The risk of setting the bar sohigh is we stand a decent chance of slamming our heads squarely into that bar if we are not physically and mentally prepared to meet the challenge. Most of us have a good idea how to prepare physically, but how do you approach a major undertaking and break it all down into mental chunks that are not so overwhelming?
After I became an avid distance runner, I decided to take on the challenge of writing a novel. Initially, the thought of cranking out tens of thousands of words and subjecting myselfto public scrutiny seemed daunting to say the least. However, I discovered that when I approached writing in the same way I approach a distance race, everything became manageable. In fact, I broke my novel down into 26.2 “miles” in place of chapters because I found similarities in the projects. My suggestion to those who have set ambitious goals that may seemunachievable – whether it be a distance race, losing that extra 20 pounds, or getting your law degree – is to employ a 13.1 step,mental half-marathon approach.
Understand Your Goal
Research what you need to do, how best to get there, and how much time it will take
Choose the Right Gear
Make sure you have the right tools for the task. Whether it’s that new pair of trail shoes, or that fancy laptop, your journey will be much more difficult without the right equipment
Don’t try to go out on day 1 and run 10 miles if you just ran your first 5K. Similarly, don’t start your new job and immediately tell your boss that you are going to run the company in a few months. Neither of those approaches turn out well.
Get Started, But Take One Mile At A Time
When you toe the starting line, don’t think of the 13.1 miles ahead of you. Just think of getting to the first mile marker or first water station. When you focus on the attainable, the seemingly-unattainable suddenly becomes reachable.
Move at A Conversational Pace
A common piece of advice for runners is: If you cannot hold up a conversation, your pace is too fast. In the office, if you cannot find time to talk to family, friends, and coworkers, you may want to slow down. You might miss something important or burn out.
Compete Against Yourself, Not Others
Life isn’t fair. Ryan Hall is crazy fast. Lebron James will dunk over you every time. Your boss might like your office rival more than you. Deal with it and do the best you can for you. You can only control so much.
Train for the Hills!
If you aren’t prepared for the tough spots, you’ll find out soon enough.
The Further You Go, The More The Crowd Around You Thins Out (Know the map)
When you start off on your endeavor, you are bound to have to navigate through a lot of clutter. Be patient, because the farther you get, the more flexibility you will have on your path.
Eat a Powerbar, go on a vacation, have a beer with a friend. Nothing’s worse than hitting the wall because you pressed too hard.
Enjoy the Scenery
What good is it to run a race in a new city if you aren’t going to take a look around? It’s a cliché, but the journey really can be as nice as getting to the destination.
Reassess Your Goal According to the Conditions
Did you pull a hamstring in the middle of your training plan? Did your child get sick and your mind wasn’t really in that big presentation you gave? There is no shame in giving yourself a break and seeing if your goal needs to be reassessed.
When You Feel Faint, Slow Down
Listen to your body and to you mind. The best stories told usually don’t end with, “… and then I woke up in the hospital.” Although, there are some pretty funnyexceptions. J
Maintain Proper Form
Keep your head up, your back reasonably straight, and move forward. If you lean too far toward the finish, you may fall flat on your face. Bend over backwards too much, and you’ll be looking at the sky.
13.1 Run Through The Finish Line, Not To It.
Once the goal is in sight, make one last lunge to make sure you finish strong. You haven’t finished until you are completely across that line.
Whatever approach you take, the main thing is to keep moving toward a goal. Every race has its obstacles, even if they are only in our own minds. Whether it’s running a marathon or writing a book, it’s always toughest to get started again once youcome to a complete stop.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a thriller set in modern day Pittsburgh against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon. As a former police officer and Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, he has drawn upon his experiences in law enforcement, and a love of distance running, to create a novel full of suspense and insight. Visit him at www.hensley-books.com, www.facebook.com/hensleybooks, and on Goodreads. Resolve is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and several other outlets.
Mr. Hensley is currently working on two other novels: Measure Twice and Hedonistic Calculus. He lives with his beautiful wife, daughter, and two dogs near Pittsburgh, PA.
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