I ran cross country in high school and college. Now, I coach a high school cross country team. I have learned so many valuable lessons from long distance running, the majority of which have helped me in my career. Here are a few of my favorite experiences:
- You can’t do it alone. Also known as, “finding a buddy.” Running is hard. Running every day is more laborious. A good runner is a consistent runner – someone who shows up every day and puts in work. Some people have the self-discipline and motivation to do this by themselves. Good for them. I don’t relate. How do the rest of us overcome the urge to stay at home instead of facing the challenge? You need to find your pact. When running, find the people who will wake up early with you, push it up the hills, run slower with you if you are tired, and keep up with you when you are flying. At work, find a manager and teammates who inspire you, whose perseverance and dedication are infectious. Ask them to challenge you, then ask for their guidance and support when you feel overwhelmed from said challenge. It is so much easier to grow and reach your goals when you are surrounded by people who keep you accountable, motivate you, and make you laugh.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Also known as, “no pain, no gain.” I am sure you have seen t-shirts with this phrase. Cliché, yet quite powerful. The idea here is to find peace, or at least understanding the fact that growing hurts. Pushing yourself in a race to get a personal record is going to feel terrible. Learning to code is going to be frustrating and exhausting. Networking is going to feel awkward. Yet, what’s the worst that can happen from these things? Once you recognize that nothing tragic is going to happen by going outside your comfort zone, you will welcome challenges instead of shying away from them. From my experience, failure is the most uncomfortable. Yet, I always learn more from trying and failing, than just playing it safe. Naturally, user discretion is advised.
- Put your shoes on and start jogging. Also known as, “just show up.” I can definitely be an avoider at times. After 10 years or so of running, I still have the same string of thoughts, “It’s cold outside. It’s going to hurt. I want to watch Game of Thrones for three hours.” At work, I tell myself “I am too young, I don’t have any experience doing this type of work, I will embarrass myself.” All these preconceived expectations can be paralyzing and discouraging. So here is the trick—give yourself the minimum goal of just showing up. If I don’t feel like running, I tell myself just go outside and jog for 10 minutes. Most of the time, I will keep running, and if I don’t, at least I jogged for 10 minutes. If I feel overwhelmed by a project at work, I break it up into a bunch of small pieces and do the easiest things first. After tackling the initial problems, the overall work seems much more feasible. The key is to be gentle with yourself, break things up into bite-sized pieces, and don’t let your mind run wild with self-doubt or expectations.