When out for a run through one of my favorite spots, there’s always a hill I dread. It’s near the base of Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, and it is about a hundred and fifty foot climb over somewhere around 100 yards. That’s steep!
The increase in the elevation takes everything you have just not to walk. When running it, there’s occasionally someone coming the other way who will give you a like that reads “Ooooohhhh….sorry for your pain.”
I’ve discovered a mindset shift that helps me make it through that hill. It helps me make it through challenging periods in life, work, and living in the world today.
Here’s the trick: When I am running up that evil, awful hill, I start out by looking at the top (or as far up it as I can see.) Then I shift my eyes downward, focusing just a few steps in front of me. I focus there for about 10-15 seconds, then I look up and look for the top of the hill for a second. Then I focus back on the steps just a few feet in front of me. And back and forth I go. After a few rotations like this, I am at the top of the hill. I’m still exhausted but I manage my way through that hill. I come out of it stronger (not at the moment, but in the long run) and I have a sense of real accomplishment.
This trick applies in many areas of our lives. You’re working on a project right now, that might feel like a slog. Your team is in the middle of a big system change and it seems you’ll never finish. Your relationship with an employee, peer, boss or friend is frustrating you.
Try answering these questions:
What’s the top of the hill?
What’s 5 feet in front of you?
Maybe the top of the hill is that a big system change is implemented. Five feet in front of you is designing a piece of a process and soliciting feedback on it.
Maybe the top of the hill is a perfect relationship with your employee. Maybe 5 feet in front of you is sharing some courageous feedback with them.
It’s a simple trick any of us can employ, but it requires that we think in both the long term and short term. It’s not either / or. It’s both.
Eric Zakovich, founder and principal consultant of Long Run Leadership Consulting has been working with leaders, teams, and organizations since 1999.