This week has been tough. It’s only Wednesday and I’m already exhausted. Part of it is that I’m fighting a cold, trying to carry on while it feels like a cement block has settled onto my chest and head. Another part is being tired. In the last 72 hours, I have written more than 140 slides worth of presentations and delivered more than three hours of talks. I worked through the holiday. I am not sleeping well. I missed my run on Monday.
But all of this is to be expected. This morning I had an urgent deadline at work, one that distracted me from my morning routine. I had to be in the office by 9 and a snowstorm meant leaving more than an hour earlier than I usually do. I didn’t get to my morning journal until almost noon. I didn’t get to Duolingo until I took a break for lunch. I’m just getting to my blog now – at almost 5 – when I like to have them written by noon.
Why bring all this up? It’s definitely not for pity or sympathy. It’s because all of these obstacles are real life. Things happen. You get sick. Deadlines change. Snowstorms blow in just in time for rush hour. A good plan doesn’t prevent these things from happening, it accounts for them.
I knew that starting a running program in the winter might lead to illness. I always get a cold. Sometimes I get bronchitis right after the first of the year. You can’t spend as much time on planes and in and out of the weather, crowded offices and among school-aged kids and never get sick. It’s unrealistic. So I padded my schedule. Over the course of the eight-week program, I gave myself four off days. I also account for a change in the routine. If something popped up on a Monday, I would run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday instead of Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I designed flexibility.
The daily activity of writing a journal was not just an exercise in dumping the contents of my brain or in organizing my priorities for the day, it was to give myself an easy win. I get up earlier than most of my family and am often out the door before my wife is fully awake. Some people make their bed when they first get up in order to achieve their first task of the day. My morning journal is like that. It takes seven to ten minutes. It’s something I can do to jumpstart my productivity and get me back on track.
The weather caused havoc with my commute and also made it difficult (and dangerous) to run outside. So I have a back-up plan. My son has basketball practice tonight at the community center. I can get my run done and still catch the second half.
My point is this: too often we make plans made out of glass. They are beautiful and well designed. They are rigid, but a flaw, an unexpected bump in the road can shatter them completely. I put a lot of thought into my plans for this year. I designed them to be made like airplane wings – rigid, but flexible, able to withstand a lot of force. Only catastrophe can bring them down. It was intentional.
I could have beaten myself up over missing my Monday run. Or I could do what I ultimately did- acknowledge that life gets in the way, that resistance may win a battle or two, but I’m going to win the war. I’m still not a hundred percent. I’m still stuffed up and have a headache, but I know that, even if I barely cross the finish line, completing tonight’s run will be sweeter than any before it and many that will follow. Because the plan worked. I kept myself on track.
I battled through the tough times, bent but didn’t break, never lost sight of the long-term goal.
Don’t let speed bumps ruin your trip. Take them for what they are – small distractions that can be overcome. Give yourself a small victory every day and remain true to your plan. If you do, like my friend C.C. says, ‘amazing things will happen.’