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Zooming In vs. Zoning Out On the Run

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you cope under stress. Reading time: 4:02

    zooming Picture yourself as a marathon runner midway into your 26-mile 385-yard challenge.

      Your lungs are burning. Your legs are heavier with each step. Your breathing’s erratic.

      And the pain rips through your body like so many coffin nails piercing your feet every time your foot hits the ground.

     You want to zone out. You have to zone out.

      But then the leader in you takes charge. And you do the opposite. You zoom in.

      Elite runners –leaders–zoom in. They  “focus intensely,” observes author Geoff Colvin in his book Talent is Overrated.  “They count their breaths and simultaneously count their strides to maintain certain ratios.”

      Meanwhile recreational runners–followers by definition– zone out. They “think about anything other than what they’re doing,” adds Colvin. “It s painful and they want to take their mind off running.”               

Pacing Not Spacing Out

Road Narrows

Road Narrows

      In zooming in, leading runners exhale vigorously on the down beat, much like gunning the accelerator to clean out the exhaust pipes. They vent off the lactic acid eating away at their exhausted muscles.

     In zooming in, leading runners embrace pain; they don’t merely brace for it.

     In zooming in, leading runners marshal a momentum because of –not in spite of– their pain.

     In zooming in, leading marathon runners stay more fully alert while recreational runners have a tendency to “space out to avoid discomfort,” notes Tom Kubistan, author of Performing Your Best.

     You can see that leadership difference at the 20-mile mark of a marathon. Study the faces of elite marathon runners six miles from the finish line.

     Sure their pain is significant yet they don’t show the anguish on their faces.  They’re more targeted than tired. They’re on a mission. With a vision.

    They zoom in, with the conviction  of the leader within. They stay alert –in the moment–no matter how exhausted they are. Just like Paavo Nurmi, the nine-time Olympic gold medal winner. He earned a reputation for consistently monitoring his stopwatch during a race to regulate his performance –speeding up, slowing down- to stay on track regardless of the pain. He did not zone out.

Present in the Moment

     In zooming in, leaders assume the role of a gadfly. They stimulate others   to be fully present in the moment. Fully engaged in the momentum.

     No wonders leaders zoom in to “realize life while they live it” as Emily says in Thornton Wilder’s iconic Pulitzer Prize winning play Our Town.

     You’ll recall that Emily dies. But she is allowed to relive one day. She chooses her 12th birthday. But Emily’s family is too busy to pay attention to her. And Emily, alone on stage, laments:

    “Oh, oh, it goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”

     Leaders do. Leaders who zoom in on all aspects of life. Even pain.

Today’s ImproveMINT

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