Career SkillsLessons on Leadership

Why it’s Essential to Run Your Own Race

By Jacquelyn Adams and Becky Pocratsky

This week’s column is from guest contributor Becky Pocratsky. And if you happen to have missed her most recent article, click here for tips on getting the most out of contentious conversations. 

I don’t know about you, but I needed a little veg time this past weekend. However, instead of mindlessly re-watching an old rom-com or binging on Netflix, I decided to spice things up by opting for something a little more stirring. After scrolling through “motivation” movie options, I landed on Secretariat, knowing that, while it might not be a cinematic wonder, it should provide some fodder for inspiration and introspection — at which it did not disappoint. The recurring line, “You have to run your race,” became embedded in my brain, and so now I am inviting you all on the rabbit trail that followed in the hopes that some nugget along the way might provide some introspection and inspiration for you as well.

Where are we running?

Obviously, the first step of any race is to consider our destination. And while this might seem simple, this is really a twofold question. Where do I want to be running, and where am I actually running? I know the goals I have for a full and balanced life. There are certain seasons where they might not be as clear or fleshed out, but I know my expectations for myself. However, am I actually running towards those goals or am I running towards my couch or just running in circles? This moment of introspection provides a good opportunity to see what your race is and to identify the ways in which I was veering off course.

Who is part of our crew?

Next, while some courses are more solitary, others come with teammates or pit crews. An example from my personal life very quickly comes to mind and readily fits the criteria. As someone newly diagnosed with diabetes, I immediately sought out teammates among my diabetic friends and my keto, gluten-free, and general health nut friends. These experienced racers have been on this course for a while and are full of tips, recipes, and moral support. My nutritionist fills the role of coach perfectly, and my husband is one very invested cheerleader as he updates some aspects of his diet and adjusts recipes for my sake.

This might look different depending on when we are looking at goals in our career or an aspect of our personal lives. Still, it good to take time to see if we are running alone and if perhaps we should consider trying to cultivate our own crew to be more effective in our attempts to reach that goal.

What are the obstacles?

Seemingly to counterbalance the help of our crew, there will also be obstacles on our way to our goals, and it works out best if we are prepared when we face them. A few of the primary obstacles are pitfalls, hills, and detractors.

  • Pitfalls are those moments that can trip you up and make you stumble as you attempt to pursue your goals. Again, those easy distractions that make time disappear, like our cell phones or Netflix are perfect examples. Or perhaps, in the business world, this can look like those moments when we are called upon to speak in public or whatever we may see as our Achilles heel. By identifying all these moments that can trip us up, we can also work on troubleshooting them.
  • On the other hand, hills can be those long dry spells where it takes all we have to keep pursuing our goal, when all we want to do is collapse. These are the moments when I find my support crew especially vital, and try to have regular reminders around me so that I don’t forget what I am working towards and, more importantly, why I want it. In the constant struggle of just moving forward, it can be easy to forget the value of our goal.
  • Finally, detractors can come in the form of competitors or spectators, but they are the people who will actively work against us. It might be by verbally tearing us down or our attempts, or going so far as to find new ways to block our path. Either way, these are not merely competitors who want to succeed, but these are people either in the race or on the sidelines whose primary goal is to see us fail. By being aware of who these individuals are, we can navigate those interactions cautiously and tactfully.

Conclusion

Just in case that big paragraph that “just hit a few basic obstacles” didn’t make it clear, running our race isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be. Life is meant to be filled with challenges and pushing limits. So, I hope we can take some time today to look at our course, whether it’s on the drive home or while we’re making dinner. What has our race looked like up to this point, and what is our path moving forward?


Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Becky Pocratsky is a freelance editor and writer. She works from home with her two sweet (loud, energetic, help me!) daughters. Also she is a super geek who went to Hobbiton on her honeymoon.

Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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