Apparently one of the most common mistake that runners make when embarking on their first race is that they start off too quickly. This becomes disastrous because it is unsustainable and inefficient. It leads to greater fatigue, more pain, and ultimately a slower run.
Yet it’s natural. It’s in our instinct, especially when we are experiencing adrenaline and excitement to shoot out of the blocks.
I do this a lot. Not just if I run. But when I do anything that interests or excites me. I want to know everything, get better, move quickly through. I apply and exert myself in a way that is usually unsustainable and damaging to other commitments I have made.
These interests usually have no obvious end point. When learning there is always more to do if you don’t set down boundaries.
If you’re like me you’re pretty rubbish at laying ground rules for yourself. This means that before long you’re playing catch up; trying to juggle lots of things at once. You likely feel insufficient, lambasting yourself for not being good enough to get everything done.
It’s About Pace
A couple of years ago artist Mandy Thompson gave away a free ebook called The Pace Book. It was a lovely little reminder about finding and nurturing a creative rhythm. This idea of pace has stuck with me ever since and I constantly think about it in relation to my own life and the commitments I make.
As with running, learning how to pace anything is key if we are going to make it work.
And yet it is a really difficult skill to hone. Even when we are fully aware of our need to slow down, to trim the fat off our schedules and to make more time to do what matters, we don’t necessarily act on that awareness.
You probably think one of two things when you hear the word, pacemaker:
- Someone who leads a long distance race to ensure a certain speed
- A device installed in the heart to help monitor and regulate your heartbeat
Both types of pacemaker are responsible for creating a desired rhythm so that things work as they should. In the race it could be that certain runners want to use tactics to disrupt the race and make it work to their strengths. In the heart a condition might lead to an abnormal heartbeat or might stop the heart from working all together.
Pacemakers ensure that the goal remains in view even when other factors try to disrupt proceedings.
I bet there are times when you wish you had a pacemaker to keep you on track in your day to day. I know there are for me. Especially when some of the biggest disruptors seem to gain power and throw me off the pace (like that stray shoe that took Mo Farah down in the 10,000 metre olympic final).
What disrupts your pace?
If we aren’t aware of where we want to go we are more likely to be influenced by other peoples’ pace. We will look at others and think we need to do what they do rather than finding our own rhythm. This leaves us stretched, on a path we don’t want to be, and in a perpetual state of needing to do more to keep up with the Jones’.
Fear Of Missing Out:
Being unaware of your ideal pace will lead to decisions being made for all the wrong reasons. We might act because we fear the consequences of missing out on an event or an opportunity.
When you’re aware of your pace you lay down this scarcity mentality and have the necessary perspective that brings room for JOMO (The Joy of Missing Out). When you realise it’s a choice you can much more readily enjoy the choices you do make.
We drop off the pace when we lose perspective of the finish line. Another tendency many of us have is to employ ‘if-when thinking’ which tells us ‘I will be happy/have more time/find balance once I make more money/the kids leave home/I quit my job.
And while there may be truth in the statement, it only becomes true if it is enacted. The problem however is that if we think that now we are most likely going to continue thinking it down the line because we are stuck on that particular treadmill.
When we have too much to do and no adequate way to process our to do list it can completely throw our pace off. This is the biggest trip hazard for me because of all the different projects I do during my week.
But I realise that the problem isn’t the amount of work, it’s how well organised I am.
As someone who works most effectively from lists and a decent task manager if I haven’t got myself organised at the start of the week I am going to suffer. If I’m not pacing through one day at a time I will be sprinting for an unsustainably long time, which impacts on the next day, the next week, the next month. It is a one way ticket to burnout.
Pace and Margin
I have learned over the years that solid pace requires margin. It needs you to say ‘I could run slightly faster right now but I’m not going to because I want to continue running for 50 years’.
We could fill our days to the limit and try to squeeze productivity out of every moment. But that’s unsustainable short term thinking.
Margin allows for contingency in unexpected and unfortunate circumstances. It is what allowed Mo Farah to catch up when he fell over. But it also leaves space for life to happen. When we don’t need to use it we can breathe more deeply, slow down, and actually enjoy the world, the people, and the opportunities all around us.
HSPs generally function well at a low and deep pace. I know I do. Reconciling this with my ambition and desire to acheive goals for myself can be tricky but I find ways. Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less but better rather than the undisciplined pursuit of more, has been instrumental in providing frameworks to process new opportunities and interests.
There is an ever present natural temptation to just add stuff to our lives.
Complexity is the natural direction we usually take. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
We fit into our natural pace when we find this natural place. Fight through the complexities of life, the temptations to add more, the time sucks and fear-driven distractions.
When we get to the other side of this we uncover our simple essence and our why. From there it becomes a lot easier to see all situations, opportunities and demands in relation to our natural pace.
Over to You:
How do you feel about the pace of your life right now? Are you trying to sprint a marathon? Or are you at the opposite end, do you want to do more but for whatever reason (perhaps health, circumstances etc) you are unable to pick up the pace? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this, please leave your answer in the comments below.