Staring Down the Finish Line

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Though I didn’t know it at the time, the year I joined the track team in seventh grade was the year I learned a major business lesson.

I didn’t like running, or exercising outside in the blazing sun, so I really don’t know why I dedicated one spring to mastering the long jump. Well, attempting the long jump is the truer statement. During practice, not only did we work on perfecting our craft of jumping, we also joined athletes from other events in basic running drills, one being some variety of a 200 meter or 400 meter run. I hated it. As the coach yelled “GO!” we’d take off running down the oval track, with the only thing to gaze upon being the corner in front of you and any runners outpacing your efforts. Neither one give much indication of how you’re actually doing mid race and not knowing how to pace myself, I probably started off a little too strong. A key indicator was the excessive sucking of air and slowing down of my already mediocre stride almost immediately. It would take me 22 more years before understanding the presumed fairy tale called “runner’s high”.

With reddening face and burning lungs, I’d round one bend, then the next praying it would soon end. And each step, I gained a new found respect for Olympians who chose this sport because they thought it was fun.

Finally, I’d reach the last bend and almost magically, an energy I didn’t know had sprung up inside. Oh joy! Happy Day! The finish line was now in sight! I wasn’t aware there was anything extra in the tank, but somehow, my legs began moving at a faster clip. Who knew?!?! At times, I’d even pass a fellow runner or Coach would remark, “Way to finish strong, Simpson!” Honestly, it wasn’t a strong finish I was after; only the motivation to stop this torture as quickly as possible. And the trigger that kicked me into higher gear, every dang time, was laying eyes upon the finish line.

Seventh grade track taught me how to finish.

Years later, I’d experience this in the business realm. First on small scales, whether closing a large sale or meeting a quarterly consistency goal. Then it became bigger. There were promotions to earn and leaders to raise up. As a business owner, it was a necessary mental muscle I was developing. To identify the finish line, consistently plod toward it and when the marker indicated 25% left to go, get laser focused and no matter the distance required BRIDGE THAT GAP! There was no other option but success and to get it done or die trying.

This might be a new concept, or quite possibly it’s a practice you know incredibly well. Either way, we’re looking at the last 25% of the year and an opportunity presents itself. Have you checked in with those strategic goals or intentions you set at the beginning of the year? Do you know where you’re at? Likely, you’ll fall into one of the following scenarios:

1. You killed it! The goal’s already been surpassed and everything else is gravy. If this is the case, A-MAZ-ING! Have you celebrated? Seriously, honor this moment, its big! I’ve worked with quite a few clients who admit they forget to celebrate. When I encourage them to pause and honor the victory, a smile comes across their face, their body language changes and it’s evident they enjoy acknowledging their job well done.

2. You’re not there yet, but the goal is going to happen! You have blinders on and you’re locked in on crossing the finish line. It might be a stretch, but in your mind, the victory has been won, it’s now time to complete the work to make it a reality.

3. It isn’t going to happen. Maybe you gave up on the goal, maybe something is preventing it from being possible. No matter the circumstances, this is not a time to climb on the guilt wagon. We can’t change the past. And shame about the situation is truly just wasted energy. Give yourself a break and get over it so you can truly look at the next three months with the ability to move forward.

4. You don’t even remember the goal. Well, at least you’re being honest! It also says you weren’t really attached to whatever goal was set, so it wasn’t the right target for you. There is a better option; it just needs to be found.

If you’re landing in group #2, keep truckin’! However if you’re in #1, 3 or 4, this last bit is for you.

Three months is a significant portion of time! Enough time to complete projects, get clarity around a strategic plan or even create momentum for the New Year. If you were to begin a conversation on January 1st with, “I’ve had the most incredible last quarter?” what would have to happen for you to say that? How could you use this time wisely? And what position would you like to have as 2019 begins?

Decide and define your last quarter finish line. Break the goal down into monthly benchmarks and list the weekly or daily tasks necessary to keep on track. You can do anything for 90 days! This short term focus will get you practice crossing the finish line. Less important is the actual goal, more important is strengthening this muscle to build a habit of finishing. And, yes, it absolutely is a habit that can be built. Practice it a few times with simple things and you’ll be surprised how ready you are when the goal becomes larger. And, my guess is, you’ll enjoy the exhilaration of the win!

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