A marathon is 26.2 miles. No matter how quickly or slowly you run it, it’s still 26.2 miles. As grueling as those miles are on your body, the true struggle happens in your mind.
When does this happen? When do most marathoners hit “the wall?” Mile 10? Mile 13? No. Most marathoners quit at mile 20. Whether you’re a runner or not, if you’re in education, you will experience this same phenomena during the school year. Mile 20, or “the wall” happens when the energy of the start of the school year seems infinitely distant but the end of year is far enough to be well out of sight.
Chasing greatness throughout the school year takes mental toughness. How can you overcome these times when it seems easier to let off the gas pedal and let mediocrity take over? Here are six tips to get you through your Mile 20.
Remember your WHY. As Jon Gordon says, “We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it. Purpose keeps you fresh!” Purpose is also an incredible alarm clock. Knowing and remembering your why reenergizes you and keeps your commitment strong.
Remember you are not alone. Reach out and get connected. Your tribe is there for you and chances are, they’re feeling the same way. Find those who will lock arms with you and keep you moving forward. Admitting you need support and encouragement is not a sign of weakness, it’s what great leaders do. No one accomplishes anything great alone.
Practice gratitude. Speaking of not going it alone, one of our leaders, Natasha Greis, a 4th grade teacher, stopped by my office one day after school last week to share an idea she had. She asked if she could create a 30-Day Happy Teacher Challenge for our team. I immediately and enthusiastically replied, “YES!” She showed up the next morning at our M@M (what we call our morning huddle: Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up) and presented it to our team with enthusiastic feedback. While there are a variety of activities she included, it’s not hard to pick up on the common there here – gratitude. When you spread kindness out into the world, it comes back to you exponentially.
Envision the finish line while remembering the starting line. Visualization is a powerful strategy employed by the elite. Winners keep their vision alive and crystal clear while others are distracted by doubts and negativity. Tap into the energy you had when you started the school year. For us, it was our team retreat day this summer that ended in a tear-jerking gratitude circle. This was a special time for each of us and it’s a great reminder of how much we’ve accomplished thus far. Then, create a clear visual of how amazing it is going to feel crossing the finish line, knowing you’ve laid it all out there, having given every single day, every single child, your very best.
Watch your self talk. When we’re in the heat of the struggle, nothing matters more than the story we are telling ourselves. This is no voice more powerful than our own and we all have to battle those inside voices of doubt. The good news? This is something that is 100% within our control. Start the practice of positive self talk. It will make a difference. (For more, see my post How Morning Affirmations Help You Take on the Impossible.)
Embrace the challenge. When you look at challenges as opportunities to grow stronger, you open up your life to incredible possibility. Not only does growth happen outside of your comfort zone, but when you’re on a journey with others, the times when you’re encountering obstacles together are the times that bond you tighter than any high point ever will. Look forward to challenges, knowing great things will come from them.
Are you at your Mile 20? What tips do you have to share? Together we are brilliant, so I’d love to connect! Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) to share. Or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.