Marathons & Sprints

people watching Padova marathon during daytime
Image by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

Building a growth process is high energy and similar to running both marathons and sprints. The process requires careful preparation, monitoring and a well managed diet of inputs to maximize performance. The best way to stay on top of a growth process is to perform regular process reviews.

As an example, I made several changes to habits beginning this past month. I focused on process improvements to create a positive change in my life such as the decision to stop drinking alcohol and replace it with a regular gym habit. My belief is that it’s easier to get more growth by eliminating a bad input (alcohol) and replacing it with a good input(gym). Going into this significant lifestyle change, I viewed it as a marathon process not a sprint. This meant that I didn’t expect to see results in the short term and that I needed to approach this change with a long term mindset, as if it were a marathon.

When prepping for process improvement, adopting a marathon mindset helps shift mental energy to conservation mode. It requires a clear understanding of the longterm vision so that energy can be conserved along the way to address inevitable challenges. In my example, I had several unique challenges. Primarily, the choice to quit alcohol was tough to navigate in social settings. I found it stressful to answer questions of why I wouldn’t have just one drink. My explanation involved my longterm mindset. I wanted to build a strong workout habit to improve my mental and physical health and my ability to maintain a steady workout habit in the past has been impacted by as little as one drink. This mindset allowed me to keep the end goal in perspective and conserve energy for positive momentum. Had I failed at the drinking habit, it would have been much easier to fail at the gym habit.

This past month, I also committed to publishing one essay a day during the week. My goals were to strengthen my written communications skills, get better at developing structured ideas and ultimately start a hobby that could be converted into a longer term business opportunity. The longterm nature of this habit required a marathon and a daily sprint mindset. Like the regular gym habit, a daily writing routine comes into conflict with the daily ebbs and flows of energy levels and commitment that are natural to a persons life. It can be a real drag to wake up early and write every day. To overcome the resistance to these ebbs in commitment, I had to treat each day as a sprint.

Sprinting requires high energy output and an ability to fight through short term pain. There are days when the writing habit and a high intensity workout are the last things I wanted to do. But on a day to day basis, I’ve opted for a sprint mentality of showing up and pushing as hard to finish as I can. My mindset, is to put in the best effort I can on any given day but most importantly, I have to show up and hit the finish line. Reading The Four Agreements really helped maintain this mindset by helping me to keep the perspective that life is both a marathon and a sprint. The longterm vision requires completing daily sprints as well as energy conservation to hit the final objective. You have to actively cross things off the daily to-do list to make any progress. But it’s also important to understand that not every day is the same, and our ability to succeed will vary on a day to day basis. By understanding that the goal is to finish as strong as possible using both mindsets, a person can achieve success without allowing the mind to get in it’s own way.

One way I found helpful to combat the mental stresses of sprinting on a day to day basis is a monthly review. It’s much easier to view a marathon commitment in monthly intervals because our mental voices tend to say things like “Oh I just need to fight it out for 10 more days” versus “How am I going to do this for the rest of the year”.

The other reason is that at the end of the month, I perform a process review and assess the results of my commitments. When you replace alcohol with fitness and pick up a writing habit, a lot of positive change takes place within a months time. Seeing significant progress towards a long term goal is a fantastic motivator to double down on success. While such growth may not be true for all process improvements, if you make a big goal and fight for it on a daily basis there will be significant progress at the end of a month. This is a significant motivator for recommitting to the next month, adapting to challenges faced along the way with process improvements and a general realignment of the marathon’s finish line.

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