This past weekend, I ran in a half Marathon. I didn’t break any speed records. I didn’t win any awards. But, I did finish the race at least three minutes faster than I’d planned.
During the race, it occurred to me that there are many similarities between striving for success in your career and running long distance races.
1. You need to enjoy the effort as much as you enjoy the reward. If you don’t like running, there is little chance you are going to succeed in a race. Most people can put up with just about anything for awhile. However, to get out for the necessary training; to wake up early in the morning to get your miles in; to keep moving forward when you are hot, sweaty, and tired, you need to enjoy the journey. The same thing is true in the rest of your life. To be successful at work, or in other portions of life, you need to get significant enjoyment from doing that thing–regardless of the outcome. Otherwise, why put yourself through it.
2. To be successful in the long run, you need to have a strategy. Perhaps some folks can go from couch to 5K, 10K, half-marathon without much effort. However, most of us needed to put together some sort of plan to get us from pile of jelly to able to cover the distance. Your strategy doesn’t need to be original, mine wasn’t. In fact, I downloaded almost all of my training plans from the web. However, your strategy needs to be something that meshes with your values. It needs to be something you believe in. It needs to point the way when things get tough or confusing.
3. You need to be able to picture yourself succeeding. There were several times during my training, and a couple of times during the race when it would have been very easy to quit. However, the picture I had of myself crossing the finish line, and the feeling of self-confidence I knew that would bring kept me going. And you know what? The feeling was even better than I imagined.
4. A half-marathon is not 13.1 miles. It is just taking “the next step” about 27,000 times. I know that may sound strange, but it is helpful. Like any long project, it helps to break the big goal into many smaller goals. Running 3, 6, 13, 26, or more miles can seem very daunting. When things get tough, it can be demoralizing to realize you still have several miles to go. However, taking a single step doesn’t seem that hard. On the big hill in the middle of the course, I heard one of my fellow racers saying under her breath, “I just need to take one more step. Just one more.” And she just kept taking those steps, because I saw her cross the finish line and get her medal. If you are struggling with something, see if you can break it into several smaller goals that don’t seem so hard.
5. Once you reach a goal take time to celebrate, then set your next goal and move on. Worthwhile goals are difficult to achieve. When you do find success, take time to pat yourself on the back. Take a small break to enjoy your success. However, don’t dwell on it. It is important to keep yourself growing, and nothing spurs growth like a new challenge.
What about you? Are there success lessons you’ve learned from non-work activities that lend themselves to the workplace? If so, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to post them in the comments or tweet them to @skoonermn!