Building Character: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
A little over a year ago I signed up for the L.A. Marathon. For most of the population, running a marathon seems daunting. For me it was only a “fool’s hope,” as Gandalf would say. I was utterly depleted by two extremely difficult pregnancies with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Eighteen months of the previous two years, my body ate through all of my fat and most of my muscle to keep my babies and I alive - IV fluids, IV nutrition and bed rest were our sustenance. Six months after our second miracle baby, I could barely walk for 20 minutes. I needed a glimmer of hope and that’s when I met Ed Ettinghausen, an incredible coach and humble world record holder, and Gary Oakley, nearly 65 and training for his 6th marathon with cerebral palsy. And I, a first time runner, had the honor of joining their team to run my first marathon.
Building a family of virtue is a lot like training for a marathon. It begins by purposefully committing to a goal and then forming a plan that will help each individual reach the goal in a healthy way. My marathon training taught me lessons far greater than how to run. I want to pass on some of the lessons I learned about tackling seemingly insurmountable tasks.
Don’t Accessorize, Do!
Often we feel we are not prepared until we have all the latest gear and best technology. Yet the top shoes, clothes, and tracking devices are worthless if we are not purposefully stepping forward in pursuit of our goal. By putting energy first into accomplishing the goal, we develop a habit that far outweighs the value the hottest technology can offer.
Big Goals Depend on Small Steps.
Before this experience, I thought of marathoners as super humans. But as I trained, I realized that running a marathon was simply taking many purposeful steps. Each day we can choose to take small steps toward a greater goal. And after months and years of these small steps you’ll be amazed at the mountains you’ve climbed!
Moderation is Key.
One of the easiest mistakes we make when pursuing new goals is to attack them vigorously. For a few days we are flying high. But soon burnout sets in. Making several incremental adjustments that help internalize discipline and strength are much better than a quick start and premature finish.
We tend to celebrate the big milestones, but often miss little accomplishments in the mundane. My first “run” consisted of two minutes jogging and eighteen minutes walking. While that may not sound like marathon material, it was a huge step in my journey. Next time your child says please or you grab a banana instead of a candy bar, applaud the choice. It’s one more step in your journey.
Adjust as Needed.
No matter how important our goal or how good our plan, life happens! Don’t be afraid to revitalize your plan to meet your and your families’ needs. When you encounter challenges find a way to move forward. Remember building character is a life-long process. Sometimes you run. Sometimes you crawl.
As incredible as my coaches were they did not compare to my husband. He spent countless hours running with me and cheering me on. Having someone excited on joyous days and encouraging on my less-than-peppy days was invaluable. Who in your life will partner with you to encourage you and hold you accountable? For whom can you be a support?
Stick with It.
Transformation is hard work! It takes dedication, perseverance and a willingness to honestly look at our lives and choose a better path. It means being willing to walk the walk, to get up and try again when we fall, and choosing to endure when we just feel like quitting. The rewards are great when we purposefully pursue them.
Developing character is a marathon, not a sprint. To do it well, it requires purposeful actions moving in the direction of the end goal. How will you run in 2018?
Antoinette is a wife and mother of two young boys. In addition to her experience as a parent, Antoinette draws valuable insights from her many years as an elementary school teacher and her masters degree in education. She also offers interactive lessons for preschool and early elementary aged children on her Etsy store, Reason2Discover.