When broken down, preparing to run a marathon involves the same process as is used for many other tasks. Be it learning to play the guitar with the end goal of mastering your favorite song or taking the appropriate action steps to receive the promotion you have been waiting for – you must prepare according to what your end goal is.
The great Benjamin Franklin said…
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Ben’s wisdom from centuries ago, still rings true in each of your lives. For your preparation to be worthwhile, you must know what your ‘final product’ is going to look, sound or feel like.
Let us remember though, that our preparation is ALWAYS done with the thought of having the perfect conditions when it’s showtime. Even our armed forces can only prepare for so much before facing a true battle situation. Regardless of what you prepare for, consider the following to help make the process easier.
- Establish a baseline – We must know what our starting point is. How much do I know about microeconomics if I want to ace the final? Can I piece together a few guitar chords that make musical sense, or none at all? Am I in enough physical shape to complete a marathon of 26.2 miles.
- Develop a program – Now that we know where our foundation is, what kind of program is going to work best for me given the time until the goal is met? Am I going to read a chapter a day out of my economics book to begin learning (notice I didn’t say memorizing) the material? Will I take up guitar lessons 3 times/week and practice on my own. Can I run 30 or more miles each week from now until the race?
- Execute the program – Why develop a program that works best for you if you aren’t going to follow it? Set aside time each morning, day, or week, or whenever it is to be making headway towards the end target.
- Show up and perform, perform WELL – This is when you utilize everything that you have put yourself through, physically and mentally, over the past several weeks and months. This is the part where you can reflect on President Franklin’s quote from earlier. Did you prepare? Did you have a training program? Did you execute the program to best serve you? If so, things are in your favor.
This is where I am going to drop the ball on you. Remember earlier when I said that we prepare to perform in the perfect situations. In preparation for my first half marathon, I had no idea what I was doing, nor what I should be doing. My mind told me that if I run everyday at least 7-10 miles then I would be okay. If the weather was bad, I would run on the treadmill. Cold and rainy outside? Stay warm and dry inside. Seemed fairly logical at the time.
Until the day of the race. It was the 2010 Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. The weather was cold, so I had to wear long sleeves. It was raining, so I couldn’t keep my feet dry. The course had several hills, and I had to run like hell up hills on tired legs. It wasn’t going to rain on my parade, and I didn’t give a damn what I needed to do or what the conditions were like. I was going to reach my goal and finish the race.
These are unforeseen circumstances. This is the equivalent of fine tuning your guitar skills before the big concert, only to have your strings break a few minutes before taking the stage. Or arriving to the airport and being told that your flight is being re-routed through two new cities and now you are going to miss that meeting you had to be at. What can be done to assure that these situations don’t get the best of you?
- Don’t Panic – If you panic, it is going to make the situation worse. Instead, turn your panic into positivity and greet the obstacle as a challenge that you want to conquer.
- Focus on what you can control – At the Flying Pig half marathon, I could control whether or not that situation was going to get the best of me. If I told myself, that I was physically and mentally prepared, then I was going to do what I set out to do.
- Execute what you know – I knew how to run, and I knew what it was going to require to reach my goal. If the professor hands you the test and it is all written and not multiple choice, so be it – you know the content (if you prepared), and you will execute what you know just in a different format.
What does this mean for you?
You can’t control the external factors. You can control the way you react to the given circumstances. In the end, obstacles aren’t meant to throw us a curveball. They are placed in our paths to make us persevere – and prove to everyone else that we will reach our goal – because we are prepared and able to adapt.
Have you ever had this happen to you? Worked so hard for something and when it came time to perform everything ‘fell apart’? Share your story and grow from your experience.