I’m on this journey to run a half-marathon the end of June this year (30 days away). Each week I run a specific number of miles in varying lengths to build stamina and endurance, both physically and mentally. A few days ago I was running on a frontage road, flanked by a busy six lane freeway on one side (CO I-25) and traffic on the less traveled frontage road (don’t worry, I was safe… really).
As I was running with the bustle of cars on the Colorado “autobahn” called I-25 on one side (seriously, 40 feet away) and the slower “let’s avoid the traffic” of the frontage road (huge shoulder to run on, safer than no-shoulder country roads), I just kept my pace with my goal in mind. It dawned on me that staying the course of calling or leading through strategy is similar to running with traffic. Here are three takeaways for thought to help you “keep running” the race.
- Know your plan and mark your course. In running and leadership, we can’t just go out and run or lead for any significant distance without a plan. To run a specific amount of miles the runner needs to map out the distance so they hit their goal. The same thing is true for us in our calling as leaders. As leaders, people are looking to us for strategic direction to take the team to the desired destination. Whether you are a leader of 1’s, 10’s, 50’s, 100’s or 1000’s you must make a plan and mark your course. Vision is what leads leaders, but vision alone isn’t enough. That vision will only be a reality with a plan (strategy) created to achieve that vision. Do the hard work of building a strong strategy that will lead you and everyone on your team to vision victory. Do the work of planning before you hit the road.
- Be aware, but not distracted. Running anywhere (even on a treadmill) requires a certain amount of focus. Not only focusing on what you’re doing, but to the environment around you. Leadership and our calling require the same focus and intentionality. Once you know your course, your strategy, your direction – stick with it. We live in a world where every bit of information is available to us 24/7. There are lots of people who have a million opinions about how to do what you’re doing. These opinions and knowledge, wisdom and direction help to inform and aid our planning and strategy. I’m a huge fan of learning from others, in fact, one of the axioms I live by is, “leaders are learners”. Gather all the facts, all the tactics and all the knowledge you can, but once you’ve set your plan, your course of action, don’t be distracted by every new thing out there while you’re running the course. I love the story of Jesus calling Peter out onto the water in Matthew 14:22-34. Peter, as only Peter would, seeing Jesus standing and walking toward all of the disciples, asks Jesus to call him out onto the water with him. Of course, Jesus does and Peter steps down onto the water, AND starts walking on water!!!! I mean, I get giddy just thinking about what Peter must have felt and experienced. But, there is a “but”… verse 30 says, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”. It’s interesting to me, that it was something invisible that distracted Peter. We can’t see wind, but we can see the effects of wind. It was when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink. What are the things that are distracting you from your plan, your call, your mission or your strategy? Are the distractions narratives that you’re believing, or maybe it’s comparison. As I was running with the traffic on either side, my focus was on what I needed to do right then and there. I was aware of the traffic, but I kept my eye on my pace, my course and my goal, because I had miles to log for the end goal of running a half marathon.
- Staying the course, means doing hard things. Staying the course of a goal, end-in-mind or desired destination requires doing hard things. It means saying yes to specific things and saying no to certain things for the sake of the goal. On this journey of running it means saying no to some of the delicious food that I would love to eat the night before a long run. It means saying no to staying up late to watch Jimmy Fallon (sorry Jimmy), it means saying no to lazy Sunday afternoons… All so I can say yes to this Big Hairy Audacious Goal of running a half marathon. The same is true for us when it comes to our calling and the strategy which we’ve created to see that calling and vision come to fruition. It means doing hard things all for the sake of something bigger than ourselves. In our strategies, it means saying no to “good” things, so we can say “yes” to great things that lead us closer to our vision and mission. It’s hard to say no, especially when we always want our answers to be yes. But for the sake of something bigger, more permeant, we must graciously say no to the things that are only distractions leading us from our goal, creating sideways energy rather than leading us toward our goal.
What about you? How are you easily distracted or discouraged from your calling and/or your strategy? What do you do to stay the course of leadership and calling? I’d love to hear how you stay the course, or how I can pray for you to do the hard things!