To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of running. I’ve never run a marathon; I have only competed in long distance rowing. But I do know something about endurance sports and endurance in life. I think I have lived enough and gone through enough seasons of life to have learned a few things. I quickly forget them though, so here’s a little reminder some things for myself that might benefit you as well.
1. Have a Vision
Define what you want your life to be about. Define what you want to be remembered for, define for yourself what you’d die for, define for yourself what fuels passion in your life. Put it into words – call it a mission statement, call it a mantra. Ask people who know you best for input; go back to it again and again as seasons of life pass. Make sure you spend the majority of your time and energy each day living out this vision.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Remember you’re only as good as how healthy your body and soul are. You need to be at your best not only for you, but also for others. Have boundaries. Learn to say no to the good so you can focus on the best. For me it’s easiest to cut corners on taking care of myself. Often in the past, I’ve found myself burnt out and with an attitude of bitterness towards circumstances that in really I created for myself. I’ve learned through those experiences that no one else is going to take care of me more than I will. I need to take responsibility for my health; it’s not anyone else’s job.
3. Visualize Success
There are many studies in sports psychology that prove that the ability to visualize success is a powerful tool in sports. In fact, visualization has been proven to be the strongest predictor of psychological willpower. Don’t just visualize yourself in your best-case scenarios; visualize yourself also in your worst-case or most feared scenarios and overcoming them.
4. Focus on the Controllable
The reality of life is that there’s so much that we cannot control. We’ll have circumstances that we have to work with that are challenging and in which others would turn away from. Let circumstance be an excuse and you’ll have lot’s of company. Anything of meaning requires overcoming challenges within a context that cannot be controlled. This requires the ability to focus on the controllable and maximizing your efforts in those areas. Make sure you define your personal success based on what you have control over. One of the greatest turning points for me working with at-risk youth teaching these past three years has been learning to define success by how I respond to my challenging students – especially when they’re at their worst.
5. Break it Up Mentally
Some people call this “chunking” – call it what you want to call it – but it works. If we take on tasks that require endurance and are growing us, we can become easily overwhelmed if we focus on the entire task or thing to be accomplished. Breaking it down into smaller parts to be able to digest from the start helps us build mental mile markers. For example, if I were to take on the challenge of a task that would require several hours, days, or even weeks, I would break it up into definable or groupable sections of work. It builds confidence and motivation to be able to celebrate the successes along the way and have something to name that you’ve accomplished while still being in the midst of the challenge.
6. Be Reflective
Take time to look back and name what worked and what didn’t work and what you have learned. But not only that, take time also to reflect on the internal dialogue that you had with yourself throughout the day. Becoming more disciplined not only in reflecting on my work but also on the internal dialogue that was happening inside of me has helped me uncover truths or falsehoods that were impacting my behavior. In teaching, I’ve learned that I must be reflective. Many times I myself have been the only person I can get feedback from. But it’s also essential to seek out giving and receiving honest feedback so collectively we all can become the best version of ourselves. Be humble to receive feedback that can sting and to give feedback that can also sting but does so with love.