3 Insights that can make a program successful

I’m pretty sure the universe is telling me something.  Actually, for years, it’s been saying the same thing over and over again: Set the mind in order to be successful.  But, how does someone “set their mind?”  it’s a basic question, and the truth is, there’s no one right answer that works for everyone.  But I do think there are some things to keep in mind when a program is undertaken and when a task must be completed along the program’s path.

I’ve run several half-marathons and when I completed the last one in October, I decided that I would run a full marathon.  My rationale was that I believe that I can push myself to higher levels and running is really a mental exercise.  That is, there is probably more mental preparation than there is physical when training for a marathon. It’s not easy to run 26.2 miles; if the mind isn’t properly set, there’s no way the body will be.  So, I started my preparation and I’ve stumbled along 3 pretty useful insights within the last few weeks:

1. Setting  a vision can be really useful

Really, if someone starts out on a program, whether it’s training for a marathon or losing weight or finding recovery, there has to be a vision that establishes the motivation for undertaking the program.  There’s no such thing as a program that doesn’t involve hard times.  Really, if change was easy we wouldn’t ever find ourselves needing to do it in the first place.  The vision can be a reference that can remind and inspire during those hard times.  Plus, if the vision is set properly, it can set the milestones and measures with which the program’s success can be measured.

2. Eliminating judgment leads to effectiveness

This is the hardest thing for me and probably for most people.  The mind can be either a great ally or a powerful enemy.  In order to progress within a program, it must be quieted such that it doesn’t label activities as either “good” or “bad.”

The other day, the wind was cold and strong and although I mapped my route such that I could cover the last few miles downhill, those miles were directly into the wind.  Only when I finished my run did I allow myself to realize that the weather sucked.  If I had absorbed it, I probably would have quit on the grounds that no rational person would subject themselves, willingly, to those conditions.  But, I’m learning to focus and do what needs to be done without thinking that it’s a fun thing to do or a crappy thing to do.  Basically, like Nike used to say I’m doing my best to “just do it” and move forward.

3.  Reflection is important to cultivate learning

When I started my training in earnest, I started keeping a running journal (as recommended in “Chi Marathon”) so that I could remember how the run went and things that I noticed or felt along the way.  Also, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing before I run so that I could set goals for the upcoming run.  I’ve done it consistently over the last 11 runs and I think it’s a tool that should be used in all things.

Really, in my work as a substance abuse counselor, I’m always advocating for reflective journaling and I’ve pretty much kept a journal of my own since I was 16.  But, although I know the power of reflective writing, I’d never kept a journal of my runs. Now that I am, I plan to keep it up as I am finding insights such as these within almost every run.

I have no idea if these insights will work for everyone, but they are working for me (and have always worked for me when I’ve been focused enough to employ them).  I offer them not as bromides or platitudes, but as real and effective tools that can be used within any given program that a person undertakes for his or her own betterment.

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