Finishing the Race: 5 Steps for Building Stick-with-it-ness

So, the past six or more years now my family teams up with another family to participate in the Manitoba Marathon. We then go for breakfast together and use the whole series of events that day as a way to celebrate and honor the dads. We have ran a few of the events in the marathon and I find it doesn’t matter which event it is- when I approach the infamous ‘ Irv’s Mile”-the first sign that tells me I am almost finished- I first get excited that I did it! Then, when’ Irv’s Mile’ seem to go on for many more than a mile- when it seems like it is more 50 miles than anything- I start cursing ‘Irv’s Mile’. I am a very positive person but when my lungs are screaming for relief, my legs are now rebelling and telling me they will not take another step-‘Irv’s Mile’ is my only hope- yet it would appear to keep moving farther and farther ahead- out of my reach of finishing.

This reminds me of the qualities that set people who are successful at achieving their goals apart from those who give up. Many of you might be familiar with the ‘ marshmallow test’ done on a bunch of four year olds. Walter Michel, the researcher was able to predict how well these four year olds would do in their teens, young adulthood and into full adulthood- simply based on whether they could wait 20 minutes before eating a marshmallow or simply choosing to eat immediately. The results showed those children who could wait 20 minutes were rewarded with two marshmallows versus their counterparts who couldn’t wait so they ended up with one.

This is a true story that I experienced at the 2011 Manitoba Marathon- after the race as is the tradition, we all waited at the end of the finish line for the others. One of our team members took a rather long time in crossing the line. When she finally did, we asked her what took her so long. Her response, “I was following Karen ( another of our team member) and running at her pace, I couldn’t keep up with Karen’s pace and fell behind, as I was so tired it took me way longer to finish the race” She finished but at a much slower pace than previous years when she ran her own race!

The moral of the story here though, and it ties in with why so many of us are able to push past ‘ Irv’s Mile’ and all the other ‘Irv’s Miles’ in our lives is this. The children who learned to delay gratification did well in pretty much all areas of their lives some 10, 15 and 20 years later. They were still practising delaying gratification and as a result were reaping the rewards of persistence, commitment to a task, learning key coping and management strategies to avoid or reduce distractions that could take them off their target. Internally generated goals are aligned with a person’s core principles that shape their values. This give us the stick-with-it-ness so needed to transcend the many challenges we will face if we wish to live full and purposeful lives.

I think about many children, young adults and adults today who would fall in either of the two groups of four year olds mentioned earlier. I am concerned about those who have not learned to delay gratification and consequently give up on their goals way too early. They see the first ‘Irv’s Mile’ signpost and think this is where it all ends, I will stop here. Rather than looking at some of the small wins in their lives as training for the big wins, they take themselves out of the race with less than 20 % left to go. And this is why though I curse ‘Irv’s Mile’, I actually embrace it because I know it is a beacon for the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Here are some coaching tips on building stick-with-it-ness:

  1. Be mindful of distractions that will take you off your target. These can be how you think to how much power you place on what others think about you
  2. See the goal as a guide for where you want to be. Start with the goal knowing the steps needed to achieve it.
  3. Learn how to use distractions and road blocks in your favour rather than become victims of them
  4. Know that focusing on the outcome as the action rather than the steps necessary to get to the outcome- is a major detractor of finishing the race
  5. The real journey is about the important steps needed to take  to get to the outcome

This year was my first time running alongside a partner in the marathon. I have always been one to prefer to run alone in the peace and calmness of silence.  This year my running partner respected my need for silence but kept pace with me. Together we finished the race and found it quite exhilarating to have worked with each other to push past ‘Irv’s Mile’ and finished our race.


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June 23, 2015 Coaching Potentials Corporate No Comments

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