Shorter Strides, Faster Progress

Pac­ing your­self

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - By Jessie Richards Jessie Richards had a role in the pro­duc­tion of Ac­ti­vated from 2001 to 2012 and has writ­ten and edited ma­te­rial for other Chris­tian pub­li­ca­tions and web­sites.

A cou­ple of years ago, I started run­ning for ex­er­cise, and I’ve tried to be con­sis­tent with it. I quickly built up to longer dis­tances and du­ra­tions than when I started, but then I hit a plateau and stayed there for a year or more. I found it dif­fi­cult to in­crease my en­durance be­yond a cer­tain point, and I found it par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to in­crease my speed.

Then I went for a run with a friend who has been run­ning for years and is in ex­cel­lent shape, and I asked him to cri­tique my run­ning.

“If you take shorter strides than you’re tak­ing now and let your feet move more quickly,” he ad­vised, “you’ll last longer and your run­ning speed will pick up.”

That hadn’t oc­curred to me be­fore. I hadn’t been try­ing to move in any par­tic­u­lar man­ner, but just let my body take me where and how it would. When I started pay­ing at­ten­tion and fo­cus­ing on tak­ing smaller steps, I found that I didn’t re­ally have to try to move more quickly; it just hap­pened. The change wasn’t dra­matic, but enough for me to tell I was mak­ing progress.

Now my run­ning has def­i­nitely im­proved. My breath­ing is less la­bored, my en­ergy level stays higher, and my speed is in­creas­ing. This morn­ing I ran the same dis­tance on the track where I made my dis­cov­ery, and did so in con­sid­er­ably less time, even with­out con­sciously try­ing. Best of all, I didn’t feel like I was strain­ing, strug­gling, and short of breath. I felt re­laxed and en­joyed it from start to fin­ish. In fact, I felt that I could have just as eas­ily kept run­ning.

While pray­ing one morn­ing shortly af­ter my dis­cov­ery, it oc­curred to me that I should test the same prin­ci­ple in other ar­eas of my life, par­tic­u­larly my work. I like to think of my­self as a “get things done” per­son, but I have to ad­mit

that I have a prob­lem with pro­cras­ti­nat­ing. It’s not that I’m lazy. I’m happy to work hard and put in the hours, and I rel­ish few things more than com­plet­ing a pro­ject. Yet I find my­self ha­bit­u­ally avoid­ing the ini­tial dig into large or long-term jobs, of­ten putting them off un­til I have to cram to meet a dead­line.

Re­cently I fig­ured out why I do that: I’ve al­ways as­sumed that I needed to make progress on big projects in big strides. But Je­sus helped me see that by ap­ply­ing my run­ning prin­ci­ple to my work, with smaller steps I could max­i­mize ef­fi­ciency, move more quickly, cover the same dis­tance in less time and with less ef­fort, and not be so ex­hausted at the end.

I no longer wait un­til I can clear a seven-day block on my cal­en­dar be­fore start­ing a seven-day pro­ject. If I have an hour or two to­day, I can use that time and make a start—a small stride. Then I can work on it a bit to­mor­row—an­other small stride—and a bit more the next day and the next. Work­ing that way, I find my­self get­ting to the end of what ini­tially seemed like a daunting pro­ject, even with­out hav­ing de­voted huge blocks of time. And I don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon. The job got done be­cause I picked away at it lit­tle by lit­tle. And as it’s hap­pen­ing, I can breathe! I’m not des­per­ately play­ing catch-up. I’m not strug­gling to get in the mileage. I’m learn­ing that some­times the best and most last­ing im­prove­ment is made not in one dra­matic move, but bit by bit and step by step. Shorter strides make for faster progress.

You can’t make your­self grow spir­i­tu­ally. It doesn’t come by self-ef­fort. It comes by liv­ing close to Je­sus, liv­ing in His Word, soak­ing up His love, be­ing filled with His Spirit, and en­gag­ing in heart-to-heart com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Him.— Vir­ginia Brandt Berg (1886–1968) Get­ting or­ga­nized in the nor­mal rou­tines of life and fin­ish­ing lit­tle projects you’ve started is an im­por­tant first step to­ward re­al­iz­ing larger goals. If you can’t get a han­dle on the small things, how will you ever get it to­gether to fo­cus on the big things?— Joyce Meyer (b. 1943) Great things are not done by im­pulse, but by a se­ries of small things brought to­gether.— Vin­cent van Gogh (1853–1890) Happy is he who makes daily progress and who con­sid­ers not what he did yes­ter­day but what ad­vance he can make to­day.— Jerome (c. 347–420)

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