While visiting with family recently and reliving memories, I was talking to my niece about a one-mile fun run she participated in back when she was nine. There were a few practice sessions to help the kids prepare for the final race, and she started out really enjoying the race prep. There were games involved to get the kids to run faster, build endurance, share experiences in groups, reach for the goal and, ultimately, be ready to run the mile on their own.
As practices continued, her initial excitement began to wane. She found she was not the fastest, she would get side splints from time to time, the continual praise faded and building up stamina was not as easy as she thought. As the race got closer, she would try to find reasons not to go to practice or, sometimes at practice, she would just stop running and walk the remainder of the course.
It got me thinking…isn’t this how our year tends to look at times? January brings the new year and, with it, an excitement to start fresh and work towards something new. Our confidence is high, we are eager to get started on new goals and we think reaching the finish line will be a breeze. But as the year progresses, what was fun and novel begins to become boring and tedious. Additional responsibilities are added to our plate, reaching the goal has become more challenging than we thought and the finish line may still be out of sight. By the time June rolls around, we’ve worked hard and are ready for a break. Summer brings sunshine-filled days spent with family, friends and generally recharging. We get that “second wind” as we head into the fall with a fresh spark and renewed confidence in the goals we have set.
But, quickly, our spark can lead to an out-of-control fire when we realize the end of the year is approaching and time is short. We may have not put in the full effort we needed to throughout the year, other priorities may have gotten in the way of the progress we would have liked to make and we’re just trying to keep up with everyone else who is also running this last leg of the race at break neck speed!
So, how do we finish well? How do we ensure we run the race that has been set before us with that much-needed endurance? Here are some tips that will spur you on to the finish line with determination, encouragement and pride in a race well run!
- Review your progress so far. Take a few minutes to see where you’ve come from, where you are and what you need to do to reach the finish line. At times, we feel we can’t take this moment to step back – we have so much to do, we just have to keep moving! The bit of time it takes to review your progress will renew your confidence in the quality of work you have done so far and may provide that final insight you need to move forward. You might also find that the finish line is not as far off as you thought.
- Set up your own time trial. Sometimes when I look at all I have to complete before the year is over, I can easily get overwhelmed and make no further progress (like my niece in the race when she just gave up and walked). I find, though, that if I set up a specific timeframe for myself to get something accomplished, typically one uninterrupted hour, I am amazed at how much progress I can make on my goal! I also build in a small reward for myself if I finish the time trial – something to look forward to always makes me strive a little harder towards my goal.
- Participate in a relay race. Grab a few other team members and set up a relay race. Pick a timeframe that works for all of you (one hour seems to be the gold standard, but 30 minutes will work wonders as well!) You start, focus on your tasks for the time selected and when you are done, hand off the next increment of time to the next person. When they are done, they can do the same until all members of the team have had a chance to complete their leg of the race. When everyone is done, connect for a few minutes (live or virtually) to see the progress each person has made and celebrate!!
- Identify your cheer squad. The last legs of a race can be hard! This is when you need to hear a voice from the crowd saying, “Come on! You can do it, just a few more steps!!” Find one or two people who will keep you accountable for the goal you've set and will check in on you from time to time to cheer you on.
- Focus on what’s going to get you to the finish line. You might be at a point where you won’t be able to finish all that is in front of you, but it doesn’t mean you won’t finish well! Some tasks and projects have to be finished before year-end or there will be ramifications for the entire team. Focus on these items and what you must do to reach the finish line. Other items can wait. I’ve found that, at times, the things I did not finish were not finished for a reason. Maybe new information will come in, creativity will show up or others will realize this was not a priority as well and scrap the goal.
So, what happened with my niece? I can’t say she was super excited come race day, but she did show up, she knew what her goal was and, with some encouragement along the way, she finished well.
If you take these tips to heart and make “finish well” your motto, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your year-end goals too!
Jeanne Heath is the learning and engagement champion for Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union. Ms. Heath has spent the bulk of her career conducting training within the financial services industry with a strong focus on technical and change management training during mergers and acquisitions. Jeanne has developed and implemented a dynamic onboarding program which immediately immersed new employees into the company culture of “positively impacting people’s lives” through an atmosphere of high performance, high accountability and high care. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and has earned her Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) designation.