May 18, 2015
By Tami Rubino, BioSpace Hiring and Branding Guru
Raise your hand if you’re one of those super ambitious over-achievers who runs or works out almost every day. Do you get up at the crack of dawn to lace up your shoes for a morning jog or to make it to your morning boot camp? Do you bust out of work for an afternoon session of hot yoga? Why do you put yourself through this when you could be relaxing with a good cup of coffee or a glass of wine instead? Most people would state the obvious health benefits or claim they do it as a way to relieve stress, which totally makes sense, right? But not me. I run simply because it makes me a better person.
So let’s start from the beginning. I’ve been a fair-weather athlete most of my life, running only in pristine conditions—not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, like Goldilocks trying to find the perfect bowl of porridge! I’d start an exercise class and two weeks later I would come up with every excuse in the book not to go. Sometimes it was because I didn’t see immediate results, or other priorities would take precedence. Heck, sometimes I would even gain weight when I’d start a new regimen. Really? It wasn’t until last fall that I discovered my true purpose for running had nothing to do with exercising my body, but it had everything to do with exercising my mind.
I remember one particularly scorching August day when my legs felt like stumps bolted to burning cinder blocks because the pavement was so hot. All I could think about was the pain radiating from the soles of my feet. I was miserable and wanted to quit. Just then, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel came on my iPod. I closed my eyes for a split second and made a decision that would forever change my perspective on why I run. I made a deal with myself that I would not allow one more negative thought to creep into my head for the duration of that song, that I would push hard for three more minutes and seek joy in every step.
When I opened my eyes, I dug deep to match my cadence to the beat of the music. Before I knew what was happening, I had hot tears running down my face, not tears of agony, but pure resolution from my circumstances and a newly discovered freedom, thanks to the lyrics of an old song that inspired me beyond words.
When I got back home, I grabbed a pen and paper, sat down on my front porch and jotted down some notes about the profound experience I just had. The music on my headphones was still playing in the background but I didn’t hear a word.
My mind was so clear that I was processing ideas and plans that I hadn’t thought about for years. Every thought that I penned had significant applicability to my personal and professional goals. The messages were clear:
•If you quit stretching and pushing yourself, you won’t go any farther.
•You have to imagine what victory looks like in your mind, but then you must declare it out loud to hold yourself accountable.
•You must move toward your goals in your thoughts, words and actions—if these three fundamentals don’t align, your chances of success go down exponentially.
•The only real guarantee in life is that your current circumstances are subject to change.
The most poignant insight from this experience, however, wasn’t the clever cliché’s to write on my bathroom mirror. It was the fact that I changed the outcome by simply by changing my mindset. I made a choice—a quick decision—that altered my performance. I honestly did not realize I had that much power over my life. I always believed that I had to accept what comes and learn to deal with it. But this revelation that I could actually influence my circumstances by making a choice and believing in it was transformative for me.
So now I use my time on the running trail to do all of my strategic planning and goal setting—both personally and professionally. I’ve trained my brain to find a place of extreme clarity where solutions to problems come easily. I role play through difficult conversations with family and co-workers to thoughtfully plan my approach. And I dream up innovative products and plans for the future that I don’t have time to think about during my normal day.
My time spent in my running shoes has become that critical investment in myself as a leader, a mom and human being that so many of us overlook because we get wrapped in our busy lives of WHAT we are doing and not WHY we are doing it. So find that place for yourself. Find some way to disconnect from the world so you have the focus and freedom to access the deep recesses of your mind where you’ve hidden your personal dreams, goals and aspirations.
You’re not a martyr, so stop putting your job and everyone else’s needs ahead of your own! You’ll be amazed by what’s in there, and you’ll ultimately discover what you’re truly capable of accomplishing.