Training for your next ultramarathon? Or simply trying to become a better version of yourself? To succeed, you need to learn how to lead yourself.
Think about it for a second. If you are to set or contribute a direction for those around you, you not only need to set a good example – you first need to set a clear direction for yourself.
What makes a leader?
It’s not easy. We’re talking about aspiring to the highest standards, and being the person that you think people around you aspire to be – or at the very least, admire. And you need to keep this level of focus up every day, even on your bad days.
Think about what sets apart aspirational leaders from the rest. The truth is, whatever our roles at work or at home, we should be aiming to be our own aspirational leaders – the kind of people who can inspire and positively affect those around us, inspiring them to achieve their own goals. Funnily enough, that sounds a lot like the definition of leadership.
I started this blog – Life is a Sine Curve – as a way of expressing staying true to a journey through its highs and lows, and how that relates to achieving big goals in endurance running and in life in general. It came from explaining to a friend what it’s like to complete a 100-mile ultramarathon, but I realised that the same logic could be applied to achieving any goal in life.
So, if being a ‘leader’ in your own life means having the power to inspire and encourage yourself and others in achieving goals, what kind of traits do you need to have?
Try these out – the five characteristics of a great leader:
Clarity of purpose. What are you trying to achieve, and why?
Focus on the task in hand and on the here and now. Ever known someone who has the ability to really focus on you in conversation? Imagine how successful we’d all be if we could apply that level of intimacy and attention to absorbing the moment we’re in.
Resilience – clearly a prerequisite for running ultras, but also arguably crucial for everyday life. How we pick ourselves up from a set-back, take the positives, and learn from experience is resilience.
Dig deep (aka ‘resilience’ tenfold). When you are tired or at your wits end, you carry on. You do a systems check on yourself, remember your purpose, refocus on your goal and you keep going. Running in the middle of the night springs to mind when I think about the times I’ve had to really dig deep. The same could be true of a long shift or a huge workload – any of those times when you miss sleep and wonder how you’ll keep juggling life. At the end of the day, when things get rough, you need to be able to inspire yourself.
Enjoy the good moments. This could be the first sounds of birds singing just before dawn, or completing one of your many tasks. Or taking the time to enjoy the conversation you are having with someone. Take inspiration from what you have achieved and let yourself soak up the pleasure in what’s around you. All too often we are all so busy chasing our goals that we fail to enjoy those important moments. This doesn’t take up any more time, it’s simply a question of how we choose to use the time we have.
Mix those ingredients and you have what it takes to continuously strive for self-improvement, always looking for incremental gains in your own performance (and I’m not just talking about running).
My personal mission is to be the best possible version of me and to help those around me to be the best possible versions of themselves.
To help me do that in the short term, I started recording my journey to become Super Fit at 50, measuring my progress in three areas:
- Starting a new job and making positive contributions to my employer and colleagues
- Trying to be the best possible dad and husband
- Training to run the South Downs Way 100 in under 24 hours – something that has eluded me over three previous attempts!
We all have our own goals, and they’re always changing. By striving to become your own ‘leader’, influencing yourself and others, you’ll only progress. That’s true leadership, in my mind.
I’d love to know what you think to this post.
Does it help to view yourself as a ‘leader’, setting your own example and being a source of encouragement to yourself and others?
Perhaps you are a leader already in some aspect of work or life – can you extend the same logic further?
And then there’s running. Does seeing yourself as your own ‘leader’ give you more control over your goals?
Leave a comment below or drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.