It’s funny how much running imitates life. In the Marine Corps, we ran a lot. I’d usually run at least nine miles a week, and found that the key to staying the distance was simply keeping my hope alive.
After several years of running the equivalent of a 5k each time I ran, I picked up quite a few little tricks like pacing, breathing and how to build endurance. But the greatest lesson I learned was that to keep my mind active and engaged, I needed to set very immediate goals. You see, the more you run the more you realize you have to keep your mind focused on something. Otherwise, you wind up focusing on the pain and giving up or just getting bored and burning out.
I’d tell myself that I’d get to that tree, or this sign post or that curve in the road. When I did, I was already on the hunt for the next goal. Doing this made the goal more tactile and immediate, and kept my hope alive and well. It made time seem to go faster, and gave me a rush of achievement when I did. Over time, I developed goals that pushed me to pace faster and harder; running was always a race, and you are always in a race against yourself or someone else.
“Do you enjoy what you do?”
I once believed that simply looking forward to something (more than you didn’t) was the key to enjoying life. There are good and bad times, but the balance of good would outweigh the bad.
I bought into this as an employee. I told this to my team as a manager. I even subscribed to this idea as a husband and father.
However, there are two problems with this point of view:
- This view puts you in the passenger seat far too often.
- This view favors the destination over the drive to get there (when both are equally important).
Each of us has a spark in us. This spark is our hope, comprised of those dreams and desires that we cling to when all else is stripped away. It defines us and can often defy the cackling majority. But somewhere along the way we trade, sell or even give away our dreams in exchange for some shadowy wisps and wants.
But there is hope. The practical advice I can offer you is that you must view life like running. Find your tree, your sign post or your curve in the road. Set your sights on the clear and immediate goal that is the next small step in fulfilling your dream.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of hope once again.