As I mentioned in my post last Tuesday, I’m currently training for a half marathon running race and it’s making me think a lot about the nature of discipline, energy, and focus — especially as it applies to work.
Take my run early this morning, for instance.
I was just running five miles. But I really wasn’t into it. My body felt stiff and sore. I was worrying about the pile of writing and editing work I had to finish by the end of the day. And I was tired from having stayed up too late last night catching up on housecleaning chores.
But according to my Hal Higdon half-marathon training schedule, I needed to run five miles. And I never cheat on Hal.
I started noticing my mind’s little tricks at right about the two-mile mark. I knew that at the half-way mark I should turn around and run back the way I had come. But I also knew that there was an alternative route that was slightly more direct (*cough* — meaning, it’s a half mile shorter). It was also on a busier road and way uglier. And despite my disciplined-bordering-on-rigid fidelity to my Hal Higdon training schedule, I suddenly caught my mind saying, “Oh just this once. It doesn’t matter. Let’s take the short cut.”
Once I caught that not-so-constructive self talk, I made myself turn around at the half-way mark and go right back the way I had come.
And to keep myself going, I marked out periodic landmarks. “Just make it to those four palm trees,” I’d say to myself, eyeing a row of palms about a half-mile down the road. Or “just make it to the post office.”
Even so, my mind played tricks — in fact I counted 21 times within two miles that my mind said, “let’s stop and walk a bit.” A couple times I actually slowed to a walk for a few steps, but once I saw what I was doing, I picked up the pace again.
It made me think about how often our minds try to get us to take short-cuts in our work, too — there’s that quick slip when we think, “I don’t need to double check this menu,” or “Maybe I’ll just pretend not to see that customer” or “Gosh, I don’t know — maybe I’ll just estimate this expenditure on my tax form.” But the more we can see how our mind does that, the more we can catch ourselves and bring true discipline and attention to detail to our work.
Next up: Energy, emotions, and the meaning of “a good job.”