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The Steps Between Hurdles

“Set it in your mind right now that the process is more important than the result. You don’t control the result; what you control are your actions.” — Brian P. Moran, The 12 Week Year

It’s that time of year, when some of us are more hyper-focused on improving our productivity and effectiveness in our chosen work than usual. I have a few friends who roll their eyes when I start rattling off words like productivity and execution, but they’re also highly productive and execute on the things they choose to focus on. Think about what you’re most passionate about in life, be it your family, your writing, your fitness level, or your career—each thing that we’re highly engaged in features higher levels of execution and attention than the things we find less interesting. We naturally try harder to be good at the things that matter more.

But what are we to do with the things that matter less but still matter a great deal? Nobody wants to stumble through life, we all want to lift ourselves and others through our contribution. And that’s where developing good habits and a process or system for living matter a great deal. If we fancy ourselves writers or athletes or accountants, we ought to refine our system of living to optimize our efficiency and results. I write best in the morning but find the afternoon better for a workout. You might find the morning the only effective time for a run, and late night the best time to focus on your best work. We learn what works over time and apply it to our lives.

“Accountability is not consequences; it’s ownership.” — Brian P. Moran, The 12 Week Year

If change is our constant companion, then refinement of our processes is our tool to overcome the hurdles we encounter. Each day is an opportunity to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and what we must change in our system to be effective in this new reality. What we can’t do is bury our head in the sand and hope the world changes back again. We might as well finish the job and bury the rest of ourselves at that point. We must rise up, dust ourselves off and get to work on improving our lot in life.

I’m not a runner, but I’m deeply invested in people who are. Having spent many hours on tracks, I know that effective hurdlers use a 3 step technique to clear hurdles in sprints. Some people use 4 steps between those hurdles because they have shorter legs or their gait between hurdles is off. This is less efficient and slower than 3 steps, but the point is to get over the hurdle and try to improve your steps on the next one. It seems this is a good analogy for our lives between hurdles too. The trick is to quickly adapt on the fly for what comes next.

We’ve all just been through quite a hurdle, and yet we cleared it. Sure, maybe we banged our shin or stumbled a bit on our landing, but we’re on to the next hurdle now. That’s life in the race, isn’t it? We must focus continually on where we are and what we must face next. Best to have a system that enables, not hinders.

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