We are once again getting a strong reminder of the permanence of change. While these reminders are often painful, they bring some lessons too.
There has been a lot of great content put out in the last couple of weeks about how to show up, lead, and engage your people and your organization in times like these. I know I have personally benefited immensely from these insights, tips, and tactics. However, I haven’t come across much that is targeted at the individual and how YOU as a person are experiencing all this fear, uncertainty, and change. Yes, leaders need guidance, but as an individual I want advice on how best to navigate these difficult waters too.
How I Manage Amidst the Chaos
Whenever I encounter a personal or professional challenge, I try to step back and think about what advice I would give me if I were an outsider to the situation. Once I get past the urge to tell myself to go pound sand, I usually get to the more rational and objective point of view that helps me move forward in a productive manner.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have probably had to speak to the “runner me” as an objective outsider more than any other version of myself. You see, I am a mediocre marathoner who has suffered through more injuries and bad races than recessions. The thing about being injured or having a bad race is that it teaches you a heck of a lot about how to be objective and handle adversity in order to persevere so you can come back stronger next time.
As I reflected on where we find ourselves today, I realized the emotions aren’t much different from where I have found myself during a race that has gone south. To be clear, in the grand scheme of things, a marathon is an extremely trivial thing. There is nothing trivial about the situation we are in right now. We are being hit with the holy triumvirate of challenges where our sense of community, our economic well-being, and our health are all under siege. That said, I do think there is some relevant advice that can be gleaned from these experiences.
Four Running Tips to Help You Right Now
Here is the guidance I give myself whenever I encounter a difficult race or an injury that derails those best laid plans:
- Be extremely honest about the reality of the situation and embrace it.
In running, heat and humidity are my kryptonite. I have had numerous races where I pushed too hard, too early given the weather that day, only to pay dearly later in the race. It can reach a point where running isn’t an option and almost any form of forward movement is a challenge. When I’m in this position, I must accept that on this particular day, this is the hand I have been dealt. All the wishing it away, ruminating on “what ifs,” and searching for excuses won’t make a bit of difference in that moment. In fact, expending my energy on the “what ifs” only distracts my focus from where it needs to be – enduring today so I can persevere tomorrow.
My advice for anyone struggling during a tough time – and that might be today for you – is to accept that the reality of today lies somewhere between the original goal and giving yourself a hall pass to quit. Once you remove those options from the table, it becomes easier to stay off the freak-out train and avoid making rash decisions.
- Embrace agility and adjust the goal, objective, or definition of success.
I have had visions of personal bests and Boston qualifiers evaporate over the course of just one or two miles – sometimes early in a race and sometimes toward the end. When this happens, you still need to find the motivation and inspiration necessary to give it your best, whatever your best might be on that day. Remember, quitting isn’t an option. Being flexible and willing to adjust the definition of success becomes essential to maintain the motivation and drive you need to reach the finish line.
- Control the controllables and forget the rest.
Knowing that heat and humidity can be very problematic for me, I have a habit of checking the weather forecast for race day every 30 minutes – starting about six weeks before a race. Regardless of whether this provides a moment of comfort or concern, it only serves to distract my focus and energy from what really matters, and it doesn’t move me any closer to the desired outcome. Unfortunately, the weather is one of many things outside of my control that can impact my performance. Remember, you can’t change the reality of the situation, but you can change how you react. Focusing the right attitude and mindset on the things you can control is paramount to moving forward in the best way possible and will hopefully inspire those around you to do the same.
- Finally, remind yourself that this too shall pass.
As the title of this post says and the brilliant Neil Peart once wrote, “Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.” This too shall pass, and we will collectively find ourselves in a better place. In a race, I have the benefit of knowing where the finish line is and how far I must go to get there. Not knowing where the finish line is on all of this is only exacerbating the stress and anxiety that many of us are feeling. A doctor friend of mine just mentioned that she is treating more anxiety in the past two weeks than anything else. There is a saying that “depression is worrying about the past and anxiety is worrying about the future.” Remind yourself that this too shall pass, the finish line will arrive, and better days are indeed ahead.
The Moral of My Story: Don’t Stop Running, No Matter What
Running has been my pastime and a way to relieve some stress for years. What I’m realizing now is that it has given me a set of tools that transcend exercise and can apply to overcoming other challenges and obstacles too. My running has taught me how to commit to an end goal and maintain focus on what seems unattainable at times – the finish line. I hope you all can find some solace in knowing that while we undoubtedly have more hills to climb and unknown twists and turns to face, there is a finish line. Stay the course and don’t give up.