Last summer I stayed in Hamburg with my friend Paul who was training to run the Munich marathon for the first time. Every other morning, he would leave the apartment before I was awake to go for a run. He would come back tired and invigorated at the same time. It was one of his lifelong dreams so I was super excited to hear about how the marathon went. I was expecting to hear about the actual event but what he shared was so much more!
What I want to share today is part of our conversation and the insights he had…and my reflections on them.
- Clear goals focus your energy
With an extremely busy job, commuting between two cities and very little free time, training for a marathon seemed like an impossible thing to take on.
He did it anyway. He was clear that this was his goal and it was important to him.
Once I decided that I was going to realize this big goal of mine, I had to figure out how to make it happen. A big “YES” requires many little “No’s” and a big “YES” makes the little “No’s” easier. Preparing for a marathon requires discipline. For me, it meant cutting things out of my diet, eliminating alcohol, declining social events and working fewer hours a day. This allowed me to say yes to quality sleep, yes to running four times a week and yes to staying true to my goal. And now, it’s much easier for me to say “no” to other things.
This reminds me of a question I regularly use from Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism. Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now? If it’s not a definitive yes, it’s a definitive no. This helps me give myself permission to stop trying to do it all and spend my energy on the things that really matter. And more importantly, take the time to figure out what it is that really matters to my business and my life.
What is one thing you can say no to today so you can say yes to the thing that matters?
- Others might detract from your commitment
Figure out what you need to stick to it.
Two of my friends didn’t like the idea of me training for a marathon. One stated that I run to “run away from problems” and the other suggested I stop running and focus on a hobby other people are more interested in. Their assumption was that I would have even less time for them – which was true. I missed out on some cool opportunities over the summer and I lost them as friends. I accepted that some people might not support my choices and I found other allies that helped me realize my dream. My learning was to make choices that are right for ME.
Paul reflected on the external noise or distraction that can get in the way of our dreams/goals. What it brings up for me is the inner noise that can also get in the way.
You know, that inner voice (or voices) that loves the status quo and gets really loud when change is imminent. It’s the “yeah…but, should, can’t, it must be this way” voice. I’m talking about Saboteurs…Inner Critics…Gremlins…take your pick.
It’s different for everyone but my main one looks and sounds like a mean version of Granny from the Tweety bird cartoon! Over time I’ve learned how to quiet her when she shows up because when she’s around, I get in my own way!
I love Shirzad Chamine’s research on this and regularly use this free assessment to help my clients discover their top Saboteurs and learn how to manage them. Check it out!
What’s getting in your way of achieving your dreams?
- Achieving a dream might not change your world but it might change your relationship with yourself
I asked Paul what he meant by this and here is his response.
For months I was so focused on one moment – the moment I would cross the finish line. Everything was about that one moment. My expectation was that when I reached the finish line, everything would be different.
I still have the same job, live at the same place and have the same family. On the outside, nothing has changed.
But on the inside, I’m different.
The moment I crossed the starting line I had a tear in my eye. At least I started. At least I tried. Crossing the finishing line I had tears in my eyes again. I know I am capable of doing things that seem out of reach. I am able to make my dreams come true. My self-esteem was high before but it is even higher now. I can create the life I want. I just have to decide I want it.
Here’s my take on this – what’s in is out.
In other words, when we change our internal world, the external world changes as well. When I think differently, feel differently, act differently – I see and experience the world differently. Sometimes, it may take a little time for the external changes to catch up.
Case in point, four months after running the marathon, Paul is about to start a completely new career and move to another city…where he happens to have a lot of great friends.
What are you taking away from this story?