Last month I ran my 5th marathon. Without exception, this journey with running continues to teach me life lessons.
My goal was ambitious but I believed I could do it. In all the excitement, my first mile was super-fast and I whispered to myself, ‘Don’t do that, Cathy. You need to pace yourself’.
Life application – pace yourself. It’s easy to get overly excited about something and want to jump in with gusto. The question we need to ask ourselves is, is the pace sustainable?
Here are some places we jump into too quickly. Make sure your actions are sustainable.
- I can't take 100% of the financial or emotional responsibility for this family. Even though I want to and have good intentions, it's not sustainable over the long haul. My spouse and I will have to figure out how we can share the load.
- I can't completely change my diet in one day and never go back to my bad eating habits. As time goes by and my discipline wains, I'll have to re-commit myself to my goal of healthy eating. This is a process which will be difficult sometimes but will get easier over time. Being sustainable involves pressing towards the final goal in a way that makes progress over time and doesn't burn you out in the meantime.
- It will probably be difficult to embrace a new faith and never question again. As we grow into our faith, new challenges and questions arise. This can serve to strengthen the faith we've built.
I slowed down to a pace that felt comfortable and easy. A pace I felt I could run all day (which is just about what it feels like to run a marathon). It was different than my planned pace but it felt good. I went with that.
Life application – be flexible. Don’t go crazy and change the plan that you've worked diligently on completely AND don’t get stuck into what you thought (in the past) would be the exact right ‘pace’.
Here are examples of changing the pace and remaining flexible in your mind.
- Let's say you decide to make 5 cold calls a day. If you’re on a roll and feeling good about it, don’t stop at there! Stay in the flow and do 10!
- You’ve planned since 8th grade to go to college but you're not feeling completely confident that this is your best next step. You may decide to visit a foreign country or get a job while you discover what you’d like to pursue as a career. It's a stepping stone to the next phase.
- Every year you take your 5-day vacation at a cabin up north. You do it just because you've always done vacations that way but you wonder if there is something better. Open your mind to the possibility of saving for a cruise, going on a silent retreat, or using the week to build that deck you’ve wanted for so long. You can always go back to the vacation up north next year.
Give yourself some wiggle room
At the half-way point of the marathon, I remember thinking, I’ve run a little faster than my goal so I've got some time in the bank. If I run out of steam at the end, I can run slower than planned and still reach my goal. That felt good! My extra effort on the first 13 miles served as a cushion for the second half of the race.
Life application - get it 100% done or maybe even 110%. That way, you'll have wiggle room if something happens that causes a challenge. You'll also be ready to take advantage of opportunities that arise that you wouldn't normally have had time for.
Here are some common ways to get ahead of the game.
- Even though I planned to just dust and vacuum, I get the whole house cleaned today. If unexpected guests drop by, I’m happy with how things feel in my home. If no one stops by, I'll have extra time to work on my next project.
- Finish the task at work that’s due on Friday by Wednesday to have more time to get ahead on the duties for next week.
- Write out a birthday card a couple weeks before it needs to be mailed to reduce stress if you run out of time.
The first three marathons I used the same training program. It was mostly working so I didn’t consider doing anything different. Although I finished the races, I wanted to finish without feeling completely exhausted for the next three days. A friend suggested that I run more miles during my training. Hmmm . . .
Life Application – Keep learning. Just because what I was doing was working, didn’t mean it wasn't beneficial to tweek my training program and have it work even better. It's a good idea to add to what is already being done. As it turned out, the added miles helped a lot.
Here are some ways to build on what you've accomplished.
- If you’re an introvert and enjoyed the last party you were at, don’t write that off as good luck and go back to your lonely weekends binge watching Netflix. Build on that good experience and plan a gathering where you’ll interact with new people.
- Build on your regular walks around the block by lifting a few light weights before you head out.
- Take a step further with your faith. Even if you’d never ever consider crossing the threshold of a church, watch a video of a service or read a book written by a theologian.
Being intentional about our lives will help make them easier. Pace yourself to make it over the long haul. Have plans but be flexible with them. Whenever you can, get ahead of the game and be prepared for the surprises life will throw at us, and always keep learning.