Monday Musings…. The Keys to Finishing Strong! Part Two
Rudy Francisco, an American spoken word poet says this in reference to complainers: “Remember, life is a gym membership with a really complicated cancellation policy. Remember that you will survive. Remember things could be worse. Remember we are never given anything we can’t handle. When the world crumbles around you, you have to look at the wreckage and then build a new one out of the pieces that are still there. Remember you are still here.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8NVLq2fGLc)
When you want to give up, quit, or run away from problems, you have to remember you are in the gym of life. You may be sweating profusely because of unrealistic goals; you may be looking in the mirror and lacking confidence that you will ever see results; or you may be lifting too much and feel that you can’t take any more for fear of collapsing. But, there is a way to finish strong in the race life has set before us, and it starts with your changing your perspective.
Step #1: You must take the time to create a VISION/picture of what you want your future to look like. Ask yourself – “am I content with how things are now or can they be better?” Your vision might be that you want to become fit physically, mentally or spiritually; or maybe you want to be a better parent, partner, or person at work. You have to know WHAT the goal is that you're running towards, instead of simply floating through life. This will help you move from excuses into expectations of What can be.
Step #2: Find your WHY, what do you VALUE most in life? There has to be purpose that will drive you forward out of that starting gate. It’s got to relate to that bigger picture, the vision you see for your life. If you look ahead, and not behind, you’ll get at least one-foot past that starting line. Think of it, when runners are ready to start their marathon and the pistol fires, no one ever looks back. Why? Because the runners know why they are there. They leave the past behind and push ahead… even if they can’t physically see the end of the road. They see long-term value in creating a healthier mind, soul, and body. The runner has a firm belief in how they want this race of life to turn out. Their purpose is going to tell them why they should go the distance. If you know your WHY you can figure out any HOW to get through the challenges that may come your way.
But this is where many people struggle on the road of life. I think finding your WHY is one of the biggest questions a person has to answer. And I see this everyday as a college professor, literally hundreds of students who don’t know what they want to do and why education may help them. They don’t know what they stand for or what really matters to them. How can they go the distance if they don’t even know the path they should be on? And the same may be for you.
Each day begins with a test – will you get out of bed? For some of you, this is a huge struggle. I get it. But if you can do that first task of the day, without hitting the snooze button, you have an opportunity to discover and practice your Why. Think about the choices you make, the decisions you commit to. Do they get you closer to that future state you hope for? Are you a better person today, than you were yesterday? I can remember sitting among some people around the age of 20, and hearing one of them ask the group: “If God was to come and visit you today, would He be pleased with what you are thinking, feeling, or doing? Now, what about you, Charlene?” Well, even though I had little knowledge or conviction about God at the time, that sort of shook me and made me think about my motivations and intentions. It’s a great daily check when you think about it. It’s a way to establish what you believe and what you value. And it certainly helps define why you do what you do. The clearer that answer is to your Why, the more energy and motivation you will have to go the distance.
Step #3: The next step will actually get you out of the starting gate and that’s: VELOCITY – or the thrust to move forward. When you have set your vision or goal, based on what you value, change can happen! In other words, you just need to start moving towards that goal. There's such a short window of time from when you believe you can do something, to actually putting it into action. You know this from the simple examples of daily life– in 5 short seconds you decide not to fold the laundry, not to start that assignment, not to go for a walk…. And instead you relax. The problem is that those to-do items are still there and they are starting to pile up. This most definitely will slow down your race. So, you must consciously choose to act, before you hit the snooze button on life and convince yourself that you can’t. It’s either Go or No. You must move from excuses into expectations and then action!
Along this life journey though, you (and I) will no doubt, encounter setbacks, disappointments, losses and failures that will threaten to stop you in your tracks, bigger issues than not folding the laundry. Things you thought you had overcome, will threaten to derail you. You will feel like nothing you do can make a situation better. You may be tested to your limits. In times like these it is easier to give up, then press on. It’s decision time. Will you go the distance? There is a difference between finishing gasping for air, and finishing strong. So, what will it take to soar to victory?
The first key to finishing strong is to have a ‘growth mindset’. It’s to throw off what you see as limitations or impossibilities (or a fixed mindset as researcher Carol Dweck refers to it as), and instead think about what you can do in your situation. Dr. Dweck found that what you believe about yourself in any given circumstance is directly related to the outcome. So, if you believe you have no power to change (fixed mindset – you’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough), you are already defeated and nothing will change; but if you believe there are options, that there might be something more you can do to learn, you will not only try, you will persevere in your efforts and actually thrive. It’s the belief that you can stretch yourself (grow) especially when things are difficult. It’s the belief that you will not only be a better person at the finish line, but you will be vastly different from when you started. It’s not only simply about believing in yourself, and that you all you need to do is put your best foot forward. Rather, it’s embracing the journey, with all the potholes and bends in the road and still getting to your destination in one piece. So, your mind is either your best friend or your worst enemy. It can push you forward or it can shut you down. Think growth!
The second key to finishing strong; is to measure your progress. Start with what is realistic and manageable. Remember, that a stumbling block I wrote about last week was having too much on your plate. Life truly is about balance and while we strive to do all things well, it is not possible to do all things at once! So, ask yourself, what is doable? This is a question to ask yourself daily. But also link it back to your vision and values. It’s awfully hard to keep running when you have no idea how far you have come, or how close you are to the end. Every day you need to ask yourself: “is what I’m doing in alignment with my vision for my life and what I value?” “Is it getting me closer to my goal or is it distracting me or taking me on a different route?” You know how some people are people pleasers or have a hard time saying no? Well, if that is you, then ask yourself, is ____________ related to my purpose? Is it getting me closer to my goal? If it is, then do it; if it is not, say no. If there is too much on your plate, look at it and decide which things don’t align with your purpose and let them go. It’s hard to make progress when you are pulled in so many directions. Even if you do, you’ll be grasping for air. So, stick with your priorities and make small, tangible goals, where you can see success. Then you will make it to the finish line in tact.
The third key to finishing strong is that it’s going to take a combination of courage and commitment. There’s no such thing as effortless excellence if you want to finish strong. What drives you, must inspire you to believe that you could do far more than you ever thought you were capable of. To go the distance takes that kind of courage because it is much easier to quit. Courage is pushing through when you think you have nothing left. As Winston Churchill says: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” So, commit to keep going because this battle matters to you. And you will have excellent results. Rudy Francisco, who I mentioned earlier, says: “Remember, muscle is created by repeatedly lifting things that have been designed to weigh us down.” This applies to our mental, physical and spiritual muscle. It takes courage to go the distance when you feel like giving up; it takes courage to persevere when you’ve had set back after set back, and it takes courage when the attacks keep coming at you to distract you from your goal. Courage is the mindset, commitment results in follow through. This combination is what we need to cross that finish line, not in exhaustion but in exhilaration. And you will have great muscles to show for it!
Every day we are at the gym of life. Sometimes you won’t want to be there. It might be one of those days where there’s too much weight to lift. Some days you won’t see any progress despite trying and trying, and you’ll feel very discouraged. But this is your membership; this is your individual race. So create your vision, find what you value, and charge forward with velocity. When the tough stuff happens have a growth mindset, make manageable goals each day where you can monitor your progress, and have the faith, courage and commitment to continue when you feel like giving up. You are still here. It is totally possible to finish strong!
This week's song is Danny Gokey's "Finish Strong". He lets us know that while this is your individual race, you don't run it alone.