28 June 2006

In the long run, stay in the moment

The fellows on the Red Green Show are fond of saying, “if you can’t be handsome, be handy.” I like endurance sports and have adopted a parallel slogan, “if you can’t go fast, go long.” And so, not being a gifted or svelte athlete I have chosen half and full ironman distance events. If you are not into sports… don’t abandon yet… read on.

I have been inconsistent and sidetracked in my training over the last few years, while doing some graduate work. I am trying, in the heat of the Midwest summer, to get back into shape. And I have developed a technique that helps me a lot. So I thought I might share it.

It borrows from Dave Scott’s “live in the moment” philosophy, but with a slight difference. For those of us that are not racing to win, we hit a point when it is about finishing. The key to finishing is to keep moving forward. Momentum is your friend. So as I run, I set visual goals a quarter, half or even a mile out. I also think about each and every step I take. I hold back just a bit, so that when I feel that step coming that makes me want to stop and walk, I have a reserve to draw from. This accomplishes tow things. First, that step that makes me want to walk just does not come as quickly, second… when it does, I have a plan. I put some extra energy into that single step and it gets me through to the next, which is always easier. Even better, I find that I reach mile middle milestones easier, feel great about it, and often don’t even walk at that point. The gratification of momentum and reaching my small little goal keeps me moving forward.

This wonderful thing about this mental game is that it has applications outside of sports. When you are attacking a wicked problem from within the cubicle, try applying this principle. If you’re a salesperson making call after call, days full of “no” or “I’ll think about it” break it down. Break it down to small steps. Work in the moment for small victories with an eye on middle milestones and the long-term finish. I swear it works.