Sprint or Marathon?

I’m not much of a runner, however, I do know a little about life. I recently gained some additional insights as I compared different types of running to how we approach life.

I have wonderful clients, I listen carefully, and I feel their pain.  Too often I hear: I can’t go any faster; there aren’t enough hours in the day; I can’t go on like this; I’m working more hours than ever before and I’m getting less done; and, I’ve never worked so hard to feel like a failure.

Does any of this sound familiar … for you, your friends, family or your team members?  If yes, you are not alone.

As I pondered on their dilemma and possible solutions, I realized that many people are approaching their personal and professional lives as if they are running a sprint instead of the marathon of life.

A sprint is described as a run at top-most speed over a short distance for a limited period of time. A marathon, which is an endurance contest, is characterized by running at great length.

Often I see clients approaching challenges with a one-and-done mentality, with speed and fervor as if there will be a lull once this challenge has been conquered.

Unfortunately, in this unprecedented time of VUCA ( (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), many miss the reality that once the challenge has been addressed … another is quick to appear.

We operate as if we have an unlimited amount of the precious time and energy it takes to navigate our way to solving problems and “crossing the finish line.”

Unfortunately, our hearts, bodies, minds and souls are not made to run full speed ahead for an unlimited amount of time.  Just like your car, we can’t run forever without care, energy, and regular tune-ups.

What happens when we approach our life marathon with a sprint mentality?

Our sole focus is on the finish line.  We are not thinking about planning, pacing, or regenerating.  We are on a mission to finish the task, sometimes without regard for self and others.

I see people gung-ho to cross the finish line at any costs. There is no doubt the mind is willing but often the body can’t keep up. Taking time to plan, practice self-care and regenerate can be the difference between burnout and successfully finishing the race.

Our minds and egos tell us something different. Our inner voices tell us that we have to work harder and work more hours.  As we do this for an extended time, we become weaker instead of stronger. The real truth is that we need to work smarter, not harder.

Have you ever noticed how much more productive you are after a good night’s rest or a mini-vacation?

It stands to reason. You are recharging your battery, putting gas back in your tank. If this was your car, and you never stopped for gas or electricity, how far would you get before you came to a halt?

I have a very dear client that I have seen transform into the next best version of herself over the last several months. Part of her journey has been mastering prioritizing, time management, delegating and self-care.

She is thinking and acting more strategically, outwardly reflecting inner peace, approaching her work and life with ease vs. being harried, focusing her energies on what she and only she can do, and getting as much or more done of the right things at the right time.

In other words, a better quality of life for her, her team and better results for the organization. I recently asked her for insights that she might have for a colleague of hers who is struggling with work-life management.

Here are a few of her great insights:

  • You can’t say “yes” to everything
  • Realize that there will always be lots of opportunities and the unexpected incoming
  • Set boundaries and stick to them
  • Yes, it is hard to say “no”
  • Prioritization is essential – use a system
  • Focus on the day
  • Batch your time and limit email interruptions
  • Be proactive in your communication – raise the flag before you hit the wall
  • Don’t try to go it alone – talk with someone you trust who can help
  • Relapsing for a day is not relapsing

The goal is to run the marathon of life… to stay in it for the long haul… while living, loving, and making a difference in the world.

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