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Running the Race of Life with Purpose

January 26, 2001
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Related Topics: Time Management, Your HR Career, Featured Article
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You’rerunning your life faster. You have more material possessions than ever before.You may have asked yourself, “Having all these things, why am I not happier?Why do I sometimes feel like a spectator watching my life unfold instead offeeling like I am the runner blazing my own trails? Who am I and what is mypurpose?” 

Why it's difficult to becomeourselves
    Manypeople have set out on the journey to “find themselves” only to bedisillusioned in the process. Why? Consider the following: 

  • Bydefault you are a “human doing” not a “human being.” If you don’t stake a claimin where you want to go, then by default it is chosen for you. We need to stepaway from the field of play and from being “immersed in doing” and thinkabout where it is we want to go to chart our course as a “human being.” Oncewe have determined what we want to “be,” then we need to engage in what weneed to “do.”


  • Expectingto be a world-class sprinter right out of the blocks.The process of becoming yourselfis an inside journey that evolves over time. It is not an epiphany. You becomeyourself through conscious reflection, adjustment, and self-directed shifts inyour path.


  • Youdon’t like what you see in yourself. Becoming your “betterself” takes self-confidence. You need faith that your life has a higherpurpose, which you are continually evolving.


  • Your“fans” want to tell you where to run. Sometimes your friends andcolleagues are busier telling you what you can’t do as opposed to lighting afire under your dreams. In the end you need to run your own race, ignoring theobstacles some of your purported “fans” will set up.


  • Youneed to apply some BenGay to your instincts. You need to trust yourinstincts to guide your path. In the book Millionaire Mind by ThomasStanley, the highest percentage of top-performing people were those who rantheir careers driven by their passions and interests. This takes the confidenceto follow your intuition and gut instincts through the face of the nay Sayers.


  • Youmay blame the judges, field conditions, and competitors for your lack ofperformance. The easiest person to fix isyourself, but oftentimes we are oblivious to our personal blind spots.


  • Theprice of admission to the meet is too high. Becoming yourself is ajourney whose path will be fraught with tears, trials, and tribulations. Youwill find fulfillment but will have to run through both the “uncomfortablezone” and “experimentation alley.” These will, at times, be dark spaces.

Identifyingthe challenging parts of becoming yourself is the easy part. The key is “whatare you going to do about it?” Consider the five-step “Run for your life”process: 

  1. Travel Inside


  2. Look Outside


  3. Get Running


  4. Look at the Scoreboard and Make Adjustments


  5. Celebrate Victories and Quickly Get Started Again

Travel inside 

   Althoughyou can look to others for guidance and inspiration to guide your run –ultimately your life is a race against and for yourself. How do you go aboutfinding your purpose, passion, and unique path? Startby asking key questions: 

  • What are the 3 most important values to me?


  • What is important to me?


  • What bugs me and what can I do about it?


  • When do I feel the most peaceful and the most engaged in life? What am I doing when I lose track of time (i.e., when I am in the zone)?


  • What would I like others to say about me at my eulogy? How could I start living today to create this kind of person?


  • When do I feel the most needed?


  • What do I love to do and what activities draw out my strengths?


  • What gets me excited?

   Considerpurchasing some books. Some excellent books on this subject are Passion Plan by RichardChang, Half Time by Bob Buford, and Creating Your Future by DaveEllis. 

   Travelinginside begins by “leaning into” your own life instead of waiting for therace to come to us. Bill Prior, the CEO of Kinetico Corporation, explained to methat we need to be running the race of our life as if we are “on fire!” Ourpurpose needs to be driven by our values and passions, which will light the firewe need under our butts! For your race to be truly inspiring, consider how youwould like to positively affect others and your community through your purpose. 

   Anote of caution: As we begin to travel inside and then start to manifest ourpurpose with action, we inevitably leave some people behind who do not likeand/or understand our direction. 

Look outside

   Onceyou have traveled inside, you need to begin to look outside to mesh yourinternal purpose and passion with the external world. Start asking: “How can Imake a difference in my world?” “Who needs my skills and capabilities?” Asthey say in real estate, “What is my highest and best use?” Finding yourplace in the larger world takes “seeing a larger world.” We can increase ourvision by going outside our comfort zone and doing things we have never donebefore, reading new subjects and concepts, and getting to know people outsideour traditional circles. 

Get running

    Onceyou have determined your initial purpose, begin to think through how you aregoing to use it in the world.  Youare ready to start running toward your goals and objectives. The question –how to start? 

   Writedown the steps. Whatare the small steps to reach the large goal? When do I need to start? How longwill it take? Who can I get to help? If you still don’t have the foggiestidea, consider: 

  • Travelthe path that has been worn.When we go through the woods we tend to walk along paths that have been traveledbefore. While your paths may take some unique twists and turns, you can learnfrom those who have traveled down similar paths. Seek out mentors. Not onlythank them for their insights, but also keep them up-to-date on your journey.Most people love to provide a helping hand to those who act on their advice.


  • Involveothers.Although this is your race, you can get there faster by taking others along!Share your dream and excitement. Let others benefit and add value to your dream. 


  • Stopentering every race.When say no, you have time to say yes to your path. Identify whatyou can stop doing.

Look at the scoreboard andmake adjustments

    Are so busy “doing” you have notime to consider how you are “being?” To become yourself will require timeto reflect on your scoreboard. Is what I’m doing working? If not, what can Ido to adjust? Great teams make halftime adjustments – why not us? You mightask, “How can I become reflective and objective about myself?” Consider:

  • Considera walk, jog, retreat, and keeping a journal. You can’t reflect during your daily activities. Reflection takes time tobe quiet so you can hear your “inner voice” (as referred to by Ralph WaldoEmerson). Find quiet time (even if it is only in the car) to consider yourthoughts and feelings about daily circumstances and adjustments needed. 


  • Ask,“What could I have done better?” When something doesn’t go well, look for how you could have contributed toa better result. The only person you ultimately control is yourself. Ask whathappened, why did it happen, what did it mean, and what can I learn?


  • Learnfrom relationships with teammates, but don’t be made by them. Much of your learning happens through the interactions with others. Work tounderstand your teammates through asking open-ended questions, but reserve yourright to have a different perspective. 


  • Geta coach. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we are blind to ourselves. Consider anexecutive coach for business. Consider a personal coach to provide an objective“scoreboard” of results and to assist in opening up paths and removing somereal and perceived obstacles in your way. 

Celebrate victories andquickly get started again

    Onceyou’ve run a great race and finished with your personal best – enjoy themoment! To paraphrase from Wide World of Sports –you need to embrace your “thrill of victory” to counteract your inevitable“agony of defeat” moments. Consider identifying and journalizing on a dailybasis what you have to be grateful for. Ask, “What can I celebrate today?”On some days this will take a lot of searching, but life is a self-fulfillingprophecy – you get what you believe and think about! 

When can I get started?

   Thereis no time like NOW to get started on running the race of life with purpose. AsI tell my 6-year-old son Grant, “The purpose of the race isnot to be the best – it is to do your best!” The benefits are being excited andengaged in the race of your life! I’m looking forward to seeing you on thetrack!

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