It was a snowy day today. The snow started falling during the night and was still falling heavily at 10am as I contemplated my Sunday long run. Yikes! My training plan called for a 14 miler today. I looked out the window at the big white flakes and thought, “Looks like I’m going to have an adventure!” I donned my many layers of running gear to protect me from the elements, strapped on my running belt fully equipped with electrolyte drinks and energy bar and off I went.
A few miles into my run, I began to wonder, what on earth possessed me to go out in such a snow storm? I remembered my first marathon training program which was in the winter. Every week I would call and ask “Are we really going for a 5 mile run tonight? It’s -40 with the wind chill!” The answer was always “YES!” and the explanation, “It helps develop mental discipline so you’ll be able to deal with any situation.”
Reflecting on this thought made me think of the current, challenging economic climate or any difficult situation. When conditions are tougher, it requires us to become more focused and disciplined in what we’re doing in order to achieve our goals. When times are good, we can become lazy and a bit sloppy because there’s more room for error. Challenging times force us to pay attention to our processes and hone our strategic and creative skills. In difficult conditions, it’s even more important to be looking ahead so we can anticipate on-coming challenges or potential risks. When we see them coming, we have more time to react and can choose an alternate route or course of action.
I had such an experience today. During my run I stayed on the roads because the sidewalks had not yet been cleared. I was careful to keep to the left side of the road and look ahead so I could see on-coming traffic in order to get out of the way if need be. Because of the snow banks, the roads were narrower and the slippery conditions presented an added risk to both me and the drivers. Gazing up at the number of on-coming cars, I decided this particular road was too busy and too dangerous. On my right was a nicely plowed side street so I took it. Because I had my wits about me and was attentive to what was going on around me, I was able to seize the opportunity to take an alternate route.
Shortly after embarking on my detour, I ran by an older gentleman cleaning the snow off his car. He called out to me “you’re brave” and I replied “or maybe just crazy!” Smiling he responded with “I’d like to think you are brave.” I returned the smile and said “I’ll take that. Thanks!” and I carried on. It occurred to me that I’d almost dismissed the acknowledgement this man had given me by discounting what I was up to. Yes I was brave. And allowing his words to register renewed my energy to carry on. Acknowledgement for our accomplishments along the way makes a big difference. We have to remember to be open to receive them especially when they show up unexpectedly. In fact, I passed two other older gentlemen on my run, one who said “you’ve got great color in your face, and be careful!” and another who said “what determination, watch out for the ice”. People who didn’t even know me gave me words of encouragement and wanted me to succeed safely!
Back-up plans are also important. Usually my hands are very warm when running and I remove my gloves after about 20 minutes regardless of the temperature. Today however, the snow stuck to my gloves and melted causing them to get wet and my fingers started to tingle with cold. Luckily I had also brought along a pair of nylon mittens. I put them on and in minutes my hands were warm again. Because of the conditions, I went out well prepared. I had a contingency plan to deal with the potential threat of frost bitten fingers.
So when times are challenging, pay attention to what’s coming at you while keeping your awareness of the opportunities all around you. There may be another road you can take that’s a little less risky and you never know who is out there to provide some encouragement and advice along the way. Make sure you are well prepared for whatever goals you pursue and have a back up plan ready. And most of all, keep a positive attitude and your spirits up because the challenging times develop your mental discipline to weather any storm and before you know it, you’ll come across a clear stretch of road where you can really get some traction and propel yourself forward.