I just completed another marathon a couple of days ago. Slowly chugging along for several hours gave me a lot of time to think about how distance running parallels lifestyle design in many ways.
Lifestyle Design is a Marathon Not a Sprint
Okay, I apologize, but I had to throw that in that in there. But it really is. Every time I run a race like this I see hundreds of people sprint off from the finish. It is like when you start a new project, blog, exercise program, studying a language, a new job or basically anything that takes time and work. At the beginning it is always easy and interesting. Your motivation is high and you probably overestimate your stamina and perseverance. When everything is new you can quickly accomplish large milestones with minimal effort. Everything seems great. All you have to do is continue this pace until you reach your goals.
Then comes the pain. It starts getting harder to keep that original pace and enthusiasm. What was once fun and easy is now tedious and insurmountable. This is where most people start to give up. Those early sprinters all quickly start to slow down and end up walking much of the race, or even giving up and quitting altogether. How many dead blogs do you come across? How many people give up on their dreams and ideas that they were so excited about in the past. After that initial excitement of the starting gun goes off, everything worthwhile begins to look a lot like work. Can you keep running when your muscles start to hurt? Will you keep striving even though you want to quit and just turn on the TV?
There is No Substitute for Hard Work
There are no short cuts to becoming a better runner. The more you run the stronger runner you become. While that is not surprising, there is no shortage of people looking for easy solutions in their life. Students who wait to the last minute to study but expect high grades. People who after years of lethargy and over-eating hope for some miracle exercise apparatus to give them six pack abs in minutes a day. The world of lifestyle design is no different. There are many ebooks and training programs promising super-sized incomes on part-time work hours. Call me a skeptic if you like, but anyone making money online has likely paid their dues by learning everything they can, lots of trial and error and good old-fashioned hard work. Expecting some miracle ebook to deliver thousands of dollars per month in passive income is like expecting to win a gold medal in the Olympics without training.
Focus on the Next Ten Meters
Running a marathon is difficult. It is hard to stay motivated for several hours of running. I would rather be at home drinking a coffee then running any day. After about 25 kilometers it gets much harder to keep going. Thinking that it is ONLY 17 more kilometers is not particularly motivating when your muscles ache and you just want it to be over. I just focus on the next pylon, tree or any type of marker that is up ahead. I tell myself, “I will run to that point and then walk a little.” I keep making very small goals like that for the entire race until I am finished. After all a marathon is only about 4200 ten meter increments.
Running a business, blogging, learning a foreign language, losing weight and almost anything worth accomplishing in life can be broken down to a series of small goals. The goal of writing a book can be overwhelming and downright discouraging. However, writing for 30 minutes a day is doable. It is amazing what a small and consistent effort can accomplish over longer periods of time.
Consistency Trumps Sporadic Bursts
We all get occasional jolts of motivation. New Year’s is a great time to witness short-lived resolutions that started with the best of intentions but quickly fade away. We get too busy, we make excuses, maybe we are just too tired today. Tomorrow sounds like a better time. Then a bunch of tomorrows get strung together and we notice we haven’t run for weeks or months.
Don’t overdo it in the beginning. Take it slow but strive for your lifedesign goals on a regular and consistent basis. It is better to run three 20 minute runs than one 60 minute run. It is better to write one blog post a week for seven weeks than seven posts in one week and six weeks of nothing. Do a small and manageable amount and keep at it.
Stop Making Excuses
About seven years ago, I met a couple in their fifties who just started running. They were weak runners with no background in sports so they were both pretty slow. We started joining the same races and met several times a year. Even without any regular training I was always faster in shorter and distance runs. That lasted for about two years. The couple both continually upped their training regime to the point of joining a running club, finishing 100km races and regularly running 50 plus kilometers a week.
Needless to say, my sporadic training is not enough to keep up to these two despite the fact that I am almost 20 years younger. Age, money, education or any other excuse you have do not matter at all. Effort and talent are the only ingredients required for success. Chris Brogan regularly talks of the hard work it has taken him to become an overnight success. Gary Vaynerchuk is renowned for his insane work ethic. It is no surprise who crosses the finish line.
It doesn’t Have to Be Fun
Going for a run on a cold day when it is raining and you really don’t feel like it is not enjoyable. In fact, it can be very miserable. I don’t expect pleasure and happiness every time I tie up my shoe laces. Most days when I run, I would much rather be sitting on my sofa drinking a glass of wine. I don’t run because it is fun, I run because of how it makes me feel after I am finished. I love feeling strong and healthy, that feeling only comes from exercise.
I have a problem with the word ‘passion’ because most people think that there is something that will give them pure enjoyment 100% of the time, for the rest of their lives. That is bullshit. Nothing is always enjoyable, particularly when it is done too often. Finding enjoyment in running, work, blogging, business, studying is all about focusing on the results. The goal is to cross that finish line. When you cross that line after 42.195 kilometers you are not thinking about all of those times you didn’t want to run but did anyway.
I get value from running and that is why I do it. I also enjoy getting my ideas out on this blog, so that is why I continue. However, my ‘passion’ is not to sit behind a computer screen for several hours a day. Some days, I would rather do other things but I keep pushing for the small accomplishments. I get immense satisfaction every time I publish a new post, complete a run, learn a new riff or song on the guitar, or make something new. Happiness comes from knowing I completed or achieved something, even if the process was frustrating and time-consuming.
You are Competing with Yourself
I don’t expect to win a marathon, nor am I ever going to get a gold medal in the Olympics. So why run? I just want to see the results of my efforts. When I train a lot, I run well. When I don’t train much, I don’t run well. The final time or speed makes little difference. I just want to do the best I can on any given day. I will pass many people and many people will pass me. The speed of other runners doesn’t affect my satisfaction at all. I run only for myself. It is all about personal excellence and that is not relative to what others may or may not be achieving.
Don’t worry if other people are more successful than you. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is how hard you are striving towards your own goals each and every day. Celebrate when you get your first customer, first comment on your blog or first consulting gig. Then celebrate again on your fifth, tenth and twentieth. Who cares if competitor X has 50,000 RSS subscribers or 10,000 Twitter followers. If you are happy with the effort you are putting in, then don’t worry about the rest of the world.
It’s All About People
Every race in any country of the world seems to bring out the best in people. Everyone cheers each other on. Hundreds of volunteers work hard to support and motivate runners. The entire atmosphere of any race is friendly and exciting from start to finish. People don’t get angry at each other or bicker like they do in their normal lives. People don’t ignore each other. It really is a different world. We all could run our own 42.195 kilometers in our own free time and avoid the entrance fees, but the real value of the race is to join like-minded people and do it together.
Sports like running get people together for training and meeting up on race days. We are not there to exchange business cards or sell each other anything. We all just want to do our best together. If only everything in life worked like that.
Lifestyle Design Is Not a Sprint
We are all looking for shortcuts in life. We want to make more money in less time and have more fun doing it. Imagine if you could wake up tomorrow and become a millionaire, look 10 years younger, or get down to a healthy weight. An instant solution like that would be worth a lot of money to a lot of people. In fact, you are probably bombarded daily with ads and emails promising similar things with a penis enlargement thrown in for good measure. If it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is. Enjoy the process in everything you do and slow down to the speed of life. There is no finish line other then death. Strive to consistently improve yourself and follow your own path in life. Don’t wait for some imaginary event or accomplishment to bring you happiness. It doesn’t matter how much of a better runner I become or how successful my businesses are. I gain immense enjoyment knowing that I try my best everyday. Lifestyle design to me is about doing as much as I can every day, not as little as possible.