This morning while suffering through one of my interval workouts on the treadmill, a few home truths that came to me.
Have you ever noticed just how quickly the intense part of the interval cycle passes when you have your head down and sweat flying? The converse is also true when the treadmill slows down for the easy side of the interval the time seems to drag.
Ever noticed how this happens at work as well? When the office is pumping and the deliverables are piling up it seems as if time is flying, you sit down to address your emails and the next thing you know it's home time!
Lessons from the treadmill:
1. Both cycles are important
At times I get frustrated when I am not moving at warp speed (on the treadmill and at work) - I inadvertently feel like I am not achieving the desired result. It sometimes 'feels' more productive to have the burn and see the physical movement that assures me I am achieving my goals. Hate to admit it but this delves into the realm of psychology and to some extent self deceit. The illusion of productivity or efficiency as a result of frantic effort is in fact - an illusion. Achieving without reflection is like trying to cut down a forest without sharpening the saw. Sooner or later the guys that have the sharper saws will trump you and your piece of bush will become insurmountable. The same is true for our physical selves in the interval, the sprint without the associated heart rate recovery is counter productive.
Lesson: Revel in the blood, sweat and tears of an all out effort but use the recovery period of your 'interval' to sharpen the saw, this way your performance over time improves - so does your insight.
2. Keep your mind on the macro goal
Always find that the treadmill brings out the demons of 'is this worth it conversation' with myself. At the exact point of pain on the treadmill or in your business life the best time to check whether it is worth it, is not when you are suffering exquisitely. Furthermore I have found focussing on the pain somehow amplifies the momentary experience. It is at times like these I consciously take my attention to the long play - the macro goal and what it promises to deliver.
I have found without fail this strategy always soothes my body and my mind and I am able to find the stamina and attitude required to finish the task, deliverable or workout. Strangely enough progress and success always hinge on the finishing and not the pain that got us to the point of finishing.
Lesson: Use the long goal vision to mitigate the pain of the moment and finish like a champ.
3. Find pleasure in the journey
Again there is a bit of psychological wizardry going on here. Seriously if the only pay back is 12 months away, who has the patience for that? Set small milestones and manage them honestly and carefully. The milestone approach will allow you to win incrementally and 'enjoy the journey more' even if it means changing an entire dysfunctional management team or achieving a sales target that looks like a T-REX.
The milestones can assure you that you are achieving the agenda and also gives you excellent soundbites for important meetings. The pleasure in the journey will do a lot for your confidence as well, you are enforcing to yourself that you are winning and that will only make the journey more pleasurable while keeping you on track.
Lesson: The view gets better with every step up a mountain, that means there are several views to enjoy along the way, not to mention bigger perspective as you stop to look and enjoy. Destroy the mountain, but remember the journey and what the incremental views have to offer.
4. Look for alignment with other opportunities
The treadmill has taught me to look for ways to strengthen my delivery by carefully planning my sprints and my jogs. As an example it has taught me just how much renewal I need to perform at my optimum. It has given me insight into my various thresholds and has shown me areas of weakness that I need to work on.
Finding synergy between the things you do - work, family, friends can bring efficiency to your life. Find how lessons learnt in one area can spill into others and the 'innovation/knowledge' can have great traction across your life as a powerful lever.
Lesson: Ideas crystalized and insight gained have the ability to be leveraged across your life - use these powerful self learnings to create momentum on as many levels as possible.
5. Without milestones you just don't know what you can do.
Imagine owning a Bugatti Veyron and never taking it for a spin? Imagine not knowing what your full potential really is?
I think so.
If you don't push the intervals of work and life you can never really revel in the self awareness of success and achievement at its fullest. I found some time ago while preparing myself for a tough multi-day mountain bike race that I needed to go to the place I figured I was going to go in the race to get milestones in my head. I did this because 1. I was scared of the race (in a healthy self preservation kind of way) and 2. I didn't want to let my riding partner down. I needed to replicate the pressure and pain as closely as possible before the crunch so that when it came - and boy did it come, I would have the milestone in place to lean on if needed to help me through.
In a work sense sometimes we shy away from the situations that create pressure and pain - its natural, however I have found that actively looking for those milestones can prepare you for that day the tap on the shoulder comes - the moment you need that extra effort or stamina in a business sense might mean the difference between progress or not.
Lesson: Dont shy away from the pain, don't turn the heat down before you have to. Actively use the intervals to build your milestones and self belief so when you are faced with the hill you think is going to kill you - you can kill it.
Have your own treadmill stories? I am keen to hear them, let me know what you have learnt while pushing the intervals on your treadmill.