The power of finish lines

If you’ve ever run a race, particularly a long one, you know the energy surge you feel as you spot the finish line for the first time. The same thing can happen when you create a finish line in your day-to-day pursuits.

In their #1 Wall Street Journal Best-selling book, The Power of Full Engagement, Dr. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz share the notion that linearity, living or working with a constant level of activity, erodes our ability to perform at our best. It exhausts our energy, focus, and motivation.

Oscillation, the rhythmic ebb and flow of intense activity followed by a period of rest, on the other hand, allows us to push to our limits. The key is routine down periods of rest and recovery after periods of high intensity.

So the problem in the way most of us work is that we drive forward relentlessly toward goals and objectives and never back off. One solution is to create a finish line to drive toward, then allow for some recovery afterward.

For example, if you are trying to add new clients to your business, you could develop some powerful business development habits. Practice and hone them, push hard with prospecting, proposing, and doing deals. But at least one a quarter, establish a finish line. Set a date by which all new deals are done, counted, and on the books…and then do an off-site team development activity immediately afterward to bake in some recovery.

If you are trying to lose weight or get in shape, break your big hairy audacious goal into several stages, and create a finish line for each. Perhaps allow for a small reward for making it to each deadline and pause to celebrate success.

Knowing that the finish line is around the corner, you and your team will push harder. Engagement will rise. Accountability grows, and people are more likely to stay on track.

I recall 2002 when my wife and I trained for our first iron-distance triathlon. By early spring, I was already weary from the intense training. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to sustain our training until October, but we started creating finish lines…and it helped me focus.

Rather than pondering the overwhelming objective of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2…we signed up for a series of smaller races. First a half-marathon. Then a half-ironman. Then a 100 mile bike race. Then a marathon. Everyone of those smaller finish lines was evidence that we were on track. They gave us a reason to push hard, and then take a few days off.  (The picture above is us finishing that race.  It was awesome.)

Whether you are driving toward goals in sales, service, leadership development, or more personal achievements, finish lines can help you get there and improve your outcomes along the way.