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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