Mindset is a key differentiator between success or failure. Without the right mindset, it’s highly unlikely that we accomplish our dreams and ambitions. But mindset is not just a matter of ‘just do it’. We can influence our mindset and make it easier to achieve what we’ve set to achieve.
What will not change is that success always starts with a first step.
I wanted to run one marathon in my life. And it had to be the marathon of New York City. The most famous marathon there is after the classic marathon between Marathon and Athens in Greece. In 2009 I completed the marathon of New York City. And while the marathon itself was an event I will never forget, it was the four months of training prior that made the difference.
The lessons I learned then, I still apply today.
Lesson 1: Set your ambition
My first step was to decide whether I was going to run a marathon. Since I started to run, I had been dreaming about running a marathon, but I never really knew what it would take. I did my research, talked to some runners who did run marathons, and made up my mind. Yes, I wanted to do this. My ambition was set.
Lesson 2: Make your goal concrete and tangible
With the help of my friend Gene, I managed to sign-up for the marathon. Once you have an ambition, the first step to making that ambition come to life, is to define a concrete first action that will get you going.
Signing up for the marathon resulted in the fact that I now had a definite date. Identifying and acting on that first step is the most critical first step of many consecutive first steps.
But if you don’t move, it won’t happen. And that’s why many people fail.
Lesson 3: Prepare
Preparation is key. No matter how small the task is, you can always do something to prepare and overcome your hurdle. To train for my marathon, I downloaded a training program. It consisted of 16 weeks of training, with every run planned written down in detail.
The promise was that if I followed this program, I would be ready for my marathon. The program in total consisted of 64 runs (4 runs per week). I missed only one run of those 64 runs. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to stick to the plan.
Lesson 4: Stick to the plan
When you want to accomplish a dream or ambition that seems unrealistic, you need to build and rely on powerful habits.
That’s what all successful people have in common. They know what’s required to establish habits that bring them closer to their goals. I always did my runs in the morning, limiting the chances of distraction or loss of energy. I also prepared for my runs the evenings before. Route, clothes, and shoes were ready to go. The watch was charged. Removing obstructions and making it as easy as possible are crucial elements in building powerful habits.
I created a rhythm that was hard to break.
Lesson 5: Learn how to deal with adversity
Not everything is always going to plan. Roadblocks will come your way. How you deal with them is what makes the difference. When faced with adversity, the best thing you can do is immediately plan your next step forward. When you don’t exercise today, prepare for tomorrow.
The key is to try and minimize the interruption. One day missed is ok. Two days is a pattern.
I planned to run my marathon in 2008, but got injured on my last long run two weeks prior. I immediately signed up for 2009 and did it then. Have a plan B when plan A doesn’t work.
Lesson 6: Love the journey
Running a marathon is a journey. The race itself is, but the weeks prior when you train for your race even more so. You need to find excitement and satisfaction in the process. Enjoying the progress, you’re making and enjoying the experience. When you manage to love the process, achieving your goal will become easier. Make notes if you like to write, so you have tangible proof of your journey.
Lesson 7: Visualize
There are many lessons in my story you can apply daily in your life. Both in your personal life and at work. Being successful at work is like running a marathon.
If you wish to lose weight, become a leader, learn a skill, check your email less, go to the gym every morning, become a writer, whatever it may be, you can apply these lessons.
Start by making time (learn more next week about making time) and visualize what your ambition is. Create a picture in your mind what your outcome will look like. Make it look like it became reality already. Get excited about it in your mind and commit to the ambition (lesson 1).
Then make the first step. And know what your first step will be each and every day.
I exercise every morning. I know my routine to get it done. I know that if I make the first step on the stairs down to the place where I work out, my exercise will be done. It’s just about that first step—every day.
Your turn: What dreams do you have? What daily improvement do you want to make in your life? And what’s your first step?