As long-time readers know, I am an avid triathlete. I race all distances but my passion is the iron distance. I am a two-time Ironman finisher, and in January I will begin training for my third Ironman.
One of the most exciting parts of the Ironman experience is the beginning of the swim. Over two thousand athletes enter the water as one. Prior to the start of the race, we are given our instructions:
“Take what the day gives you.”
“All you can control is your attitude.”
“ See you at the finish line.”
Good advice for a race that is about to cover 140.6 miles and may last up to seventeen hours.
And good advice, I would suggest, for approaching your day.
Why it Works
The instructions for an Ironman race are effective because they are manageable and easy to remember.
What about your instructions for the day?
I was once asked by a client to help him prioritize a “To Do” list containing over 160 items. The items were neatly typed on several pages. I asked to see the document.
When he handed it to me I got up, walked over to the trashcan and dropped the list in the wastebasket. I then announced, “We’re not going to do this. It’s too much. It’s not manageable.” I then added, “Tell me the three most important things you have to do today, why they are the three most important and we’ll start with those.”
It has to be manageable.
Three items are manageable.
One hundred and sixty items are not.
It has to be easy to remember.
Picking the three most important items each day and knowing why they are important is easy to remember.
Breaking It Down
Notice how each of the three instructions can apply to your world.
“Take What the Day Gives You.”
A lot can happen in a seventeen-hour day.
I have had to deal with rain, wind, heat, mechanical failures and levels of fatigue I could not even imagine.
What about your day? There are interruptions, missed deadlines, emergencies, traffic jams, and uncooperative people.
Try as you might, you simply can’t predict every thing that might happen in a day.
The goal is to put yourself in a mindset that allows you to bend but not break when confronted with challenges throughout the day.
“All You Can Control is Your Attitude.”
The 2008 Lake Placid Ironman featured some of the worst weather imaginable. During a thirteen and half-hour period, some towns along the course reported over five inches of rain. Imagine a never-ending torrential downpour.
We were all getting equally wet. What was not equal was the way we were each choosing to deal with the weather, the fatigue and any other issues that arose.
In your office you may be up against deadlines, and ungrateful bosses or clients. You may have to deal with feeling unappreciated on a regular basis.
You didn’t necessarily choose those problems anymore than I chose the rain on that Ironman Sunday.
What we do choose, however, is our response to that which is going on around us.
Want to get upset?
Want to act out or give someone the silent treatment?
Be my guest.
As a general rule, no one but you cares whether you’re having a good or a bad day.
I don’t know about you, but I’m in my own head all day and I would prefer to be around someone that’s in a good mood.
For the last few months, one of my clients has been having a particularly rough time at work. The other day I told him, “If you want to have some good news in your life, you’re going to have to create it. It doesn’t look like it’s going to come from anyone else anytime soon.”
Choose your response, and you’ll choose your mood.
“See You at The Finish Line.”
Identifying the Ironman finish line is pretty easy. Just follow the screams of the crowd until you cross under the inflatable arch with the digital clock.
Your finish line may involve the completion of an important project or having a good meeting or presentation.
There will most likely be no screaming crowds to signal the end of your successful day. The cheering will have to come from within.
Finishing an Ironman race or having a productive day at work requires a positive attitude, flexibility, and a bit of good fortune.
To reach your “finish line,” learn to focus on the big picture and don’t get caught up in the temporary problems that will pass.
You may never finish an Ironman race, but having a plan as you approach your day can assure that you’ll be successful regardless of the “race” you are in.