Last month I gave my readers an inside look at my lifelong struggle with perfectionism. Part of it is how I’m wired. I was born striving for better, faster, stronger. But sometimes I feel like every time I attack a goal with gusto, I get a not so gentle reminder that slow and steady wins the race.
Last fall I decided that I was going to start running. I always wanted to run but had convinced myself that I’m not a runner. But the thought of spending one more Minnesota winter trapped indoors was all the motivation I needed to give it another shot.
This wasn’t my first attempt at fitness. My husband and I are avid cyclists. We also enjoy hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and all things outdoors. I’ve also worked out pretty much every day for the past seven years.
So perhaps I was a little smug about my fitness level when I started running. I naively thought I could get to the same level as seasoned runners quickly because I was already fit. The first time I ran, I ran five kilometers. I ran my first 10k within three weeks. And in the first month, I shaved three minutes off my average mile.
You know what happens next, right?
One evening my husband and I were out running and my ankle began to hurt. I remembered the advice of countless seasoned runners who say with pride, “run through the pain.” So I kept running. Then it hurt a little more, and I still kept running. The pain continued to worsen for about a mile until eventually, I couldn’t physically run anymore.
I took a couple of weeks off from running, but it wasn’t getting better. I begrudgingly saw some doctors who all agreed that it was a soft tissue injury. So I waited, tried to walk it out, and did everything I could think of, but it wasn’t improving.
After the first of the year, I started to panic, worried I would never run or hike again. A friend suggested a physical therapist who works with these kinds of injuries. Two months of soft tissue work later, I finally got the go-ahead to start running again. This time, I was advised to walk two minutes, run a minute, and work my way up from there. Having just recovered from one of the worst injuries of my life, I followed these instructions to a T.
Twenty-eight weeks after my injury, I finally ran my first 5k straight, without walking. I was overjoyed and grateful that I was finally seeing progress. But then I thought, I wonder where I’d be if I would have taken it slow and steady from the beginning.
No regrets. I learned some powerful lessons about being gentle with my body. I’m learning to train my body to move more efficiently, engaging the right muscles to prevent future injury. But I can’t get over the irony of how my efforts to get better, stronger, faster, quicker, had the opposite effect.
This lesson applies to so much of what we do. Our health, careers, finances, and relationships all suffer when we try to take too many shortcuts. That’s why diets rarely work and everyone isn’t a penny-stock-day-trading billionaire. Lasting success requires patience and hard work.Lasting success requires patience and hard work. Click To Tweet
That doesn’t diminish the value of setting deadlines and shipping (as Seth would say). Slowing down is about thinking long-term and doing it right the first time. It’s being intentional and taking action on what’s right for you and your family. It’s loving your whole life and enjoying the journey.
I’m curious, what areas in your life do you need to pull back, slow down, and refocus? Give yourself permission to take that one thing and think about how you can do it better, rather than faster. Focus on the long-term outcome instead of your short-term gain. Because the path to our best lives is a marathon, not a sprint.
When have you been reminded that slow and steady wins the race?
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