About a month ago, my wife, daughter, and I entered a 5K race that was raising money for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. I don’t know how many people were entered, but there was a lot! My wife had run a 5K before and my daughter had been running and preparing for it for weeks. Me, on the other hand, not so much. I work out regularly, but running more than one mile at a time is not my thing. The most I have ever run at one time was two miles, and that’s not that often. I do however, think of myself as having mental toughness, so I figured I would get through a couple of miles and just push through that last mile or so.
The race started fine. My wife ran at her pace while my daughter and I took a little faster start. About ¾ of mile into the race, my daughter pulled away from me and wasn’t seen again for a while. I got through the first mile fine and started into the second mile. About halfway into mile two, there was a long, steady hill that seemed to last forever. In the backdrop of this hill, I could see the finish line over my shoulder and saw a couple of guys finishing. Now that’s concerning given that I had a mile and half to go, not to mention this hill to deal with. I made it to the top of the hill and continued on into mile three, uncharted ground for me now. My “mental toughness” was being tested!
About ¼ of a mile from the finish line, I caught up with my daughter. She was on the side barely jogging now. I ran over next to her and she had a terrible look on her face. I asked her what was going on. She was about to cry. She said, “I can’t go any further. I can’t go back up that hill again”. She pointed to the hill we had run during mile two. She was clearly mistaken. We didn’t have to go back up that hill. In fact, we were now under ¼ of a mile from the finish line, we just couldn’t see it. As we continued to press on, I told her the finish line was where the music was coming from and that it was just around the next corner; we didn’t have to go back up any hill.
Her whole demeanor changed. She took off again and left me a second time. She finished the race strong, and I came in a few seconds behind her.
Now there is a load of life lessons there, and I could do an entire sermon series on that encounter. I will save that for now, but there is something here I want to draw attention to.
For many of us, we are just getting over that hill now. We have had some challenging times. We are tired and somewhat frustrated. We can’t; however, let the past keep us from pressing on. For my daughter, she was seeing that hill as an obstacle that she didn’t think she could overcome. Her mind told her she was done. She didn’t realize the finish line was just around the next corner if she would just keep running. She was focused on where she had been and not where she was going.
As leaders, we have to be able to influence people and help them with that perspective. We have to help our folks focus on where they are going and not the difficulties of the past. Too many people live defeated lives because they can’t get beyond what they have already been through.
So where do you start? First, start with yourself. You can’t lead others effectively if you are a mess internally. Get a fresh perspective; get a vision of where you are headed; and get moving again. As you get moving forward, communicate well to help others understand where they are, what’s going on, what’s being done, and how close things may be to a better situation for all. Communicate the benefits of pressing on and not giving up. Your finish line (better times) may be just around the corner. Sometimes we just need leaders to recognize a “Moment of High Influence” and no matter how tired they may be, to help others gain perspective.
Oh, and yes a couple of other life lessons:
1)When your mind tells you that you are done, your “bucket isn’t empty”. You can do more than you think you can.
2)Never look behind or too far ahead, you may be looking at the wrong road. Make the most of today on the road you are no right now.
3)Sometimes in life, your goals need to change along the way. Your personal goal of achievement (better time) may be altered to help another finish strong.
4)The finish line (better situation) may be closer than you think. Just because you can’t see it now, doesn’t mean it’s not just around the corner.
5)Those tough times in life (that two mile hill) should build confidence not despair. The key is how we use that memory in the future.