And now on to the details/results…
And now on to the details/results…
Let me tell you a story about my exercise plan…
After many years absent from decent exercise, I put a concrete effort getting in to great shape. After the two years it took me to get to something I’d consider reasonably healthy, I was blindsided by the comparisons to which my exercise goals paralleled my life goals and to some extent, wrote about them in my previous two ‘finding focus’ posts (part 1 and part 2). I started breaking down my goals, motives, challenges and focus, into sub-categories that my brain could visually manage and find some connection to the way I wanted to live my life.
In general, I lack focus when I can’t prod something or get instant visual feedback. I get bored easy when there’s no game-changing goal, or insight into mental boundaries and once I lose the urge, the downhill roll can never be reversed. It took me two years of trial and error, laziness, failure, getting knocked down and forcing myself back up again until I no longer wanted to be the invisible victim (of my own crimes) and to develop a solid survivor instinct, coupled with a winning mentality. I wanted to listen to myself and adapt to maximize its message. For the most part, I got there, and continue to head in that direction. Ever so often I fall down and sit there for a while but I’ll get back up fairly quickly and try again. Looking back on my early life what I perceive to be missing is the secondary essential of dialog when falling off a bike – OK, you fell, now, get back on and try again. It was always OK to fail before and failure be an end to a story but it shouldn’t be the end. Sure there are circumstances where doing the same thing will continue to produce failure but the point here is to learn and keep trying until it either works (and you don’t fail) or you learn enough to walk away and try something else in life. Walking away isn’t failing, providing you take your lessons with you and try again on something else. Keep going, no matter what.
During my downtime this year, I’ve slowly been mulling over ideas to drop myself in the waters of entrpeneurship and have been struggling to find the resonance I need within myself to really go for it. I’ve read a few books, been inspired by positive influence and even to a degree, know what ideas I’d like to try but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting off my ass and then it clicked – I needed to approach this in the same way that I did for running and exercise.
I’ve never been a runner and will probably never have enough focus to last a huge distance but after getting in shape, I decided to at least try and cover more than a 100 meter dash. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself until I could cover 5k without collapsing but found that I could only manage this once or twice; I didn’t know why I couldn’t keep this up, or continue to get better. After many months of deliberation, I knew I wasn’t listening to my body. When I finally opened my ears, I understood that my body that was letting me know it was too much, too soon and I needed to either back off, or change tactics. Because I was trying to do it all at once, I wasn’t gaining ground each time because I was just burned out. So, I backed off, started doing interval runs and I’m managing to cover the same ground, for longer periods of time, all due to switching to short steps instead of one long stride.
This is where I’ll be starting with business. Small steps. Trial and error. Pushing myself through boredom and distraction until I achieve something that I feel will be my difference to the world. I have many obstacles to overcome and fears to get through but during those moments, I’ll remember my exercise and running and the thing I always repeat in my head when I’m negative about pounding the road “Keep going, keep going. Slow down if you need to but never stop. Catch your breath and catch up. Keep Going“
Last week, I took a morning out from the job-hunt regimen to gain a little bit of personal focus, by climbing Mt Si. Yes I could have chosen an easier target but hey, good for what ails ye, right? The hike itself ended up being closer to twelve miles, due to the bus only stopping in North Bend and two miles shy of the trail-head, but no matter; makes for a nice warm-up before hitting the incline.
This time out I’d set myself a tighter target – two hours or less to reach the top of Haystack rock. Ultimately, I made it to the top in exactly two hours (to the minute) and succeeded in not suffering any ill effect that day or after, for cutting 30 minutes off my last hike. So, what new insights did I have for myself that I could apply to life in general? It turns out, more than one.
Understand the mechanisms that best work for you, to get the job done.
Does running as fast as you can until you get exhausted and then crawling the remainder of the way, really benefit the job in hand? That really depends. If all the variables are in place and nothing can be overlooked, the short sprint can be most exhilarating, but then the long, slow, winding down can be frustrating and invoke stumbling into other distractions. Burnout is a big danger and fatigue can cause a multitude of factors to creep in. What about a slow, steady approach? Lack of excitement can again lead to distraction and a mind that isn’t sufficiently stimulated, will often wander off to find it’s own remedy. For myself, I’ve learned that I operate best when I achieve just shy of a sprint. Pushing myself fast enough to constantly need to be aware, yet not so fast that I lose grasp of what I’m aiming for and, more importantly, don’t fade out before I have a chance to achieve my goal.
Set a hard but realistic target, but subconsciously allow forgiveness for not quite finishing everything on time.
The two hour target was something I considered reasonable, based on my previous hikes and my current fitness level. I almost didn’t quite make it, but continued to push myself forward, making adjustments along the way on the sections I needed to fight to control, and the milestones I needed to reach. If I hadn’t made it, I wouldn’t have been unhappy, as I had given my all. While walking the two miles in to the trail-head, I gave myself a pep-talk on what was expected and assured myself that, as long as I tried as hard as I could, I wouldn’t harbor guilt, if I couldn’t make it in time. This immediately took pressure off me to go beyond something I was capable of, and gave me enough breathing space, to not make costly mistakes. Targets are very important to keep a level of focus, but forgiveness of ourselves, changes the end effect from feeling like a pointless punch in the face, to a constructive understanding of being nearer to getting it right the next time.
Give time to savor the victory and reflect on what it took to get here.
I’m often guilty of trying to get the job done, just to check it off the list; this method yields zero life lessons. We need the opportunity to sit back and admire the good work we’ve done, understand our own processes that took us there and reflect on the parts that didn’t go to plan, so we can adjust for the next project.
These lessons are not just for inner growth but are applicable to work, business and relationships also. Finding the mechanisms that enable us to understand how we function, is another step toward personal enlightenment and better translating the manual for our individual lives. I’m fortunate enough to have found hiking as the Rosetta Stone for the manual to my life.