For general health and wellness, I try to hit the pavement a few times a week for a jog. For years, minus the occasional dog walker, I was the sole runner of the neighborhood.
Then, last week, another jogger emerged on my sidewalk path, moving at a quicker pace than I and quickly gaining on me. A new neighbor? Likely. A competitor trying to challenge my position on this sidewalk? Absolutely.
Almost immediately I checked my own pace. As predicted, I wasn't going nearly as fast as I could. I started to run harder knowing he was gaining on me, and found the new competition exhilarating.
I wondered...how many jogs have I taken prior to that day, where I wasn't pushing myself, reaching my potential, or even running with a purpose? More importantly, in life, how many days go by moving at a comfortable pace, without considering the impact of complacency on the mind and body?
At work, in sports, in relationships and life overall: If you’re not being chased, trying to catch up, or highly focused on getting ahead, motivation needs to be managed as its own pursuit.
In the Workplace
- Does your best work come hours before a critical deadline?
- Are policies only created when difficult situations are presented?
- Do employees give that extra effort only when motivated by the accomplishments of their peers?
- Do companies focus on the needs of customers today, at the expense of innovation to serve the needs of the future?
While you’re doing your required job duties at a manageable pace, there may be another associate/colleague/competitor recognizing this, and strategically preparing themselves to challenge for position/prestige/power.
When you live in your own world, with your own rules, and ignore what others are doing, you're setting yourself up to limit potential. A strategic, driven person can train in solidarity, but watches and waits until the best time to enter the race. Simply expecting this challenge should be enough to invigorate some extra efforts toward the goals you’ve set.
There will always be younger, smarter, faster, wealthier. But as long as you keep showing up each day and demonstrating continual improvement, your perseverance will influence, intimidate and separate you from the pack.
If you don’t prefer to compare yourself to others, or get caught up in a competitive race that leads to nowhere, focus on comparing yourself to the person you were yesterday, a year ago, a generation ago. What goals did you set that were accomplished? Where did you fall short? What events changed your path? Are you showing signs of the person you want to become, and the goals you want to achieve?
The Unpaved Road
The reason we have to keep running, even when motivation wanes, is because there's a good chance your past accomplishments have inspired others, and therefore encouraged the creation of competition. But only you know where you're headed next. The power lies in running hard, focused in a strategic direction, but with an open-ended destination.
My high school principal, Bernie Kroviak, gave me sound advice, which I have carried with me. He said, “don’t set your career goals on the positions that currently exist, prepare and advance yourself for the positions that will exist years from now, or that you yourself will create.” My interpretation was that you can pursue specific paths and goals based on your aptitudes and interests, but make sure along the way you are developing fundamental skills that make you agile and adaptable to the changing world.
Also, as covered in the book “The Innovators Dilemma,” by Clayton M. Christensen, those companies that only focus on the needs and wants of their customers today, and don’t drive innovation, or focus on the needs for customers of the future, will ultimately be left behind when faced with disruptive technological change.
When self-preservation isn’t enough, and you can’t find the motivation to advance, create a need to fill in your mind. Create today, the competitor that may be years away from emerging. Create and meeet deadlines for some of the most meaningless tasks, and you’ll soon find your potential expands for accomplishing bigger things.
Run when the sun is shining, run when it’s raining, but most of all, run like you have to.
Whether blazing a new path, overtaking the lead dog, or avoiding the risk of losing what you started working for - find your reason each day to keep running.
My favorite motivating thoughts: The Lion and the Gazelle
(shared via Graywolf's SEO Blog)
Christina is an assistant vice president and consultant for PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Follow her on Twitter: @ChristinaCScomments powered by Disqus