The Importance of Finishing Strong

finishing the race

Lots of people think getting started is the hardest part of any challenge, and I won’t disagree. Deciding to change, improve, or even cut back can all be difficult projects to initiate. Toxic or healthy, everyone enjoys having a comfort zone, and it’s hard to start any sort of project that throws off the routine. That being said, sometimes finishing strong is as important as getting started.

Girls on the Run

My daughter and I are doing Girls on the Run this fall. If you aren’t familiar, this program is for elementary school aged girls and offers group sessions about self esteem, determining and sticking to values, and ultimately, like Oprah says, being the best self you can be. After a girl power session, participants choose a daily distance goal and go running. The ultimate end goal is for all runners to complete a 5K  in November.

My job is to be a running buddy, meaning I run along with the girls and pass down as much encouragement as possible. There are all kinds of girls in the program. Some are natural runners and others struggle. Regardless, all of them start practice in a mad dash like their tail feathers are on fire.

Obviously, no one can maintain that type of pace. The more conditioned girls slow down and find their rhythm while the less experienced ones end up limping or holding their sides as they slowly walk the last half of their distance goal for the day.  Some quit and go play on the monkey bars.

We Can All Be Remarkable for a Minute

I’ve said in the past that there are lots of life lessons we can learn from kids, and the girls on the run are no exception. How many people do you know who have tried to clean up their finances, started out like gangbusters, then burned out after just a few weeks?

Any of us can do remarkable things for a short period of time. If you’ve ever done P90X or Insanity, that’s why the really intense exercises are less than a minute in length. No matter how difficult or against our nature something seems, we can probably do it for a minute.

The harder part is actually going the distance and finishing strong. To stay in the race for a long period of time, we have to condition ourselves, cut out distractions that impede our progress, and be willing to make sacrifices.

Finding the Right Balance

Lofty goals are admirable, but setting the bar too high is not good. No matter how hard I train or how much I want it, it’s not physically possible for me to run a 5K doing 6 minute miles. If you eat dinner out every day and suddenly decide you’ll cook every meal from scratch, that’s a huge shock to the system and probably won’t happen. Trying to set unrealistic goals usually results in defeat.

Setting the bar too low doesn’t help either. Walking 20 minute miles isn’t going to get me across the finish line before the race coordinators are packed up and headed for home. Cutting out one restaurant meal per month while still eating out the other 29 days isn’t going to do much over the long haul.

We have to find the balance between goals that are challenging yet attainable.

Setting Realistic Goals

Our girls weren’t told to go out and run three miles on the first day of practice. Instead, they had to choose a goal around one mile and meet it,  either by running or walking. The next practice, they needed to go a little longer. Eventually, the hope is that three miles won’t seem daunting at all.

The same holds true for getting out of debt or finally establishing savings after years of paycheck to paycheck. Start with a goal that hurts a little but isn’t enough to be overwhelming. As you get stronger and learn that the sky won’t fall if you don’t buy something every day, increase your goal. After doing it long enough, you’ll make good money management the new normal, and hopefully we’ll get all those kids across the finish line!

Are you someone who starts really strong but burns out or can you go the distance? Is it harder to retire early or get 19 pre-adolescent girls to run 3 miles?


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  1. What do you think of the sentiment that you can’t have too big of a goal, because if you go for that huge goal and miss, you’ll still achieve a significant amount? The phrase, “shoot for the moon, and if you miss you’ll land next to the stars,” is another expression for this opinion.

  2. It is, as you say, about conditioning ourselves, cutting distractions, and making sacrifices. In a word, it is about discipline. I think your 5K analogy is great and can relate to that personally. I lost thirty pounds of fat and packed on a bunch of muscle between Jan 1 and my June 27 wedding. I did it intentionally, each day, each meal, each trip to the gym; by sticking to my plan and staying laser focused on my goal. Now I am on the road to paying off over $350,000 in debt. I have a plan to pay it in 5 years. I have a goal of being free to work less and travel more. I am going to get there the same way I did with my weight loss, and I am going to finish strong. Thanks for the helpful tips, encouragement, and mentoring on your blog. I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  3. Starting out too fast is why I have died in just about every running even I have ever done! I admit that sometimes I get a little too amped up on something when I first start and have problems following through to the end. It is all about finding your pace and settling in for the long haul. I’m still working at finding it but feel like I’m getting closer.

    Good luck with the girls! Don’t be too tough on them 🙂

  4. ha I’m probably better as a running coach…well I am since I did coach girls on the run one season. Yeah for some reason I’m slow and steady with everything else except when it comes to my finances. One month I’ll be ULTRA frugal and the next I’m super spendy and don’t track my finances or care as much. I need to find that healthy middle ground. Best of luck on the program!

  5. Haha — I’m not sure which is harder! Both retiring early and getting teens to run are big tasks!

    I’ve found that tracking progress and setting incremental goals is the key for reaching big goals for myself and for us as a couple. It worked both with my marathon training and is working well so far with our FIRE planning.

  6. Sounds like a great program, Kim. Lauren and I have started running some marathons together and it is so much fun. I love the message here because I see it all the time. People come in gung-ho to fix things ASAP, to do whatever it takes. And they lose interest in a week or two or when the first hiccup happens. We do need to find that balance because as important as starting is, you also need to make it across that finish line. And sometimes easing your toe into unchartered waters is better than jumping right in.

  7. I used to start out strong and then fizzle out and I attribute a lot of that to make lack of patience in my 20s. But just like with good training, I feel as though my patience has grown the older I get and I am more ready for the distance than I was a decade ago.

  8. Great message, Kim. This is similar to what I have heard one of my new favorite entrepreneurs, Gary V, talk about. Anyone can do something for a month, two months, four months, etc. but if it’s something you really want how can you consider quitting after 6 months??? Dedication is key in most endeavors, and those who are motivated will make it work.

    1. That’s right that wanting something isn’t good enough. You also have to be very motivated. Unfortunately those two don’t always go hand in hand.

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