Beth Bridges, a regular contributor to intrepidNOW, writes about how to break through personal barriers with regards to both individual and business goals…
I used to be the fastest one in the little ad hoc running group I put together a few years ago. We’d get together on a Saturday or Sunday and just go out for a few miles. I had started competing in local events and at first, my goal was to not be last in my age group. I gradually got better – we all did – and we just assumed it would be steady progression until we got old.
“If I just keep at it, I’ll get a little better all the time,” I would think. We’re taught that slow and steady always wins. We remind ourselves that it’s not like the movies where the hero trains like crazy and goes from worst to first in the course of a training montage.
Except when it does. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve made it happen.
It’s a quantum leap made macroscopic. It’s a powerful surge. It’s the big kick at the end.
We can make massive gains over a short time in our performance and results. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of work. Not just the same amount of work, but compressed, intense effort.
I’ve done it before. But it was accidental. Or done to meet a deadline. I took three years to get my book 75% written then finished the last 25% in a week. That was a massive gain.
I still absolutely believe in steady progress and incremental change. But I am now ready to apply a process of intentionally making massive gains in my personal, professional, and athletic performance. Here’s what it takes:
Have A Strong Foundation
The book wasn’t the first thing I had ever written. In the years before I started writing it, and continuing during the early drafts, I had written over 200 articles for EzineArticles.com, a couple hundred blog posts, and newsletter articles for my employer.
I had been practicing and preparing the groundwork for being able to do a big push and produce quality work, not just quantity. This is especially true for athletic pursuits. I spent the first couple of years of my running “career” constantly sore and on the edge of injured because I wasn’t running steadily enough. I hadn’t built up a foundation of strength. Now that I’ve got that endurance base, I’m thriving on a rapid ramp up of my workload.
Use a long period of steady progress to build a foundation of strength to prepare you for a massive increase in effort.
Commit to Total Immersion
I finished writing my book in a week when a friend, author Robert Mano, offered me the use of an empty office next to his. I drove straight from work every day for a week. We locked ourselves in and I wrote and he read. I got more work done in those five days than I had in two years.
I had one focus for that week and that was to completely submerge myself in finishing my book. It wasn’t just my immersion and buy-in. Robert was investing hours of his own time. My husband was willing to not see me for nearly a week. Everyone was committed. There was so much “skin in the game” beyond mine that there was no way I was going to let anyone down by dilly-dallying or fooling around. Nothing like the need to not waste the incredible gift of time and support I was given to concentrate the mind.
Fully commit to the project and put in as much concentrated time as you possibly can. You won’t be able to do it for long, but you’ll make disproportionate progress.
It’s so natural and we all do it. After a big push to finish a project, we tell ourselves we’re “burned out” or so over that idea and we’ll massively cut back. Slow down enough, or quit altogether and you’ve lost all that ground you gained.
The difference in making massive gains and completing a project is that you take that surge and you keep going. Not at the same intensity. But you don’t quit. And maybe you grew enough during the big push that you can keep up that pace.
The difference is that the surge isn’t just a bump in the road of progress, it’s lifting you to another level entirely.
When you finish a massive effort or reach your goal, keep the momentum going and lock in the gains by continuing to work at as high a level as you can.
When one of my running buddies found a couple of people training at the track near his house, he asked to join them, even though they were minutes faster and working at a much greater volume of miles than our group had even considered.
He went from being one of the fastest in our group to being much slower than this other group. Instead of giving up because he wasn’t the top dog, he started working out with them each a week and followed the same training regimen. After six months of struggling to keep up, of red-lining his efforts, the result was a massive, three-minute improvement in his 5k time.
Spend time, work and train with people who outclass you, work harder than you, and are smarter than you. As long as you can live with being the slowest or least accomplished in your group, you’ll naturally be pulled along with them.
I’ve started running with these “big dogs.” I’m the last one to finish, every time. I’m also deliberately sculpting my network to spend time with people who are smarter, more accomplished and harder workers than I am. It’s an uncomfortable thing. But I know that when I combine it with a strong foundation, making a total commitment and carrying on after a big push, that I will make massive gains.
Can’t wait to see where it takes me.