It’s 4:25pm and already dark, much too cold to run out there; halfway in my growth mindset challenge

A few weeks ago I announced in public what I called my growth mindset challenge: before 2018 is through I would run a Sub Six Minute Mile (SSMM) to counter a long held notion in my mind that I am slow and thus, challenge an underlying belief. Announcement made, I got started. Challenge away.

In this post, I’m going to cover the three simple steps to my approach and reflect on my progress so far. Because I’ve already gone through the messy distillation of half thoughts and to-do lists scribbled in my notepad, you get three neatly packaged steps to apply to any growth mindset challenge. The three steps are: find your WHY, identify your WHAT, and plan the HOW.

For my WHY, I’ll tell you what I didn’t do. I didn’t sit out on a sunny Fall afternoon and say I was in the mood to run a lot. My WHY wasn’t about wanting to be fast, to get in better shape or lose weight. No, my WHY started from a thought whispering to a mind at rest, those idle moments on a noisy open layout office.

Stagnant.

Complacent.

Failure.

When I first joined the corporate world, I was eager to learn EVERYTHING. Fortunately, I was in an intellectually stimulating environment and everything happened to be on the menu. Not only was I picking up a broad management consultant skill set — things like project management, stakeholder engagement, executive communication, storytelling — I also dove headfirst into enterprise software and analytics.

Fast forward several years and I was finding myself much less eager to dive in to new things. “A single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind…to make a deep path, we walk again and again.” I felt stuck wandering the same deep paths I had walked before.

It is true that a career, like a business, must at some point exploit the knowledge it has gained. But in following the same paths forged by footsteps of open mind and eager spirit, I was met with feelings of stagnation, complacency, and failure.

What drove me then to this growth mindset challenge was the need to forge a new path, to rejuvenate the mind. And that word — rejuvenation — was the reason that I needed this. I had found my WHY.

The seed that would soon sprout into the SSMM challenge was planted. Invigorate the body, rejuvenate the mind. This was one of those times in my life when I went to sleep with a swirl of thoughts and then I woke up in the morning and the answer was clear.

It felt right that the WHAT should be a physical challenge, a tangible representation of overcoming worn out mental pathways. As I started toying with different ideas, the thought crossed my mind: “Why not see how fast I could run a mile?” I was used to being the slow guy on the basketball court or soccer fields growing up. Now, don’t feel too bad about my lack of speed: I had an early growth spurt, so I found the court plenty.

I did some research (read: GOOGLE). I spoke with a friend who’d run track in college to gauge how realistic it was. Given I was fairly active at the time, playing soccer twice a week in organized leagues and strength training two to three times a week, my friend was encouraging. Six minutes sounded challenging and achievable.

I wanted to set a baseline before committing to anything, to validate that I had a reasonable base to start. After a few days of rest I ran a mile in 7 minutes 54 seconds. Not a bad time and also not impossibly far from the 6 mile target I was considering. I did a bit more research through running publications and quickly decided to give it a shot. The SSMM was my WHAT.

After going through a self directed and meandering psycho analysis, planning for HOW was refreshingly straightforward. I set a target, announced it in public, designed a research driven approach, and then committed to tracking my progress and staying accountable through regular updates.

Now, the purpose of this post isn’t to go in depth on my training approach. Perhaps next post I’ll share a bit more on what I’m doing and how I’ve adapted to the feedback my body has given me. Instead I want to share my progress to stay accountable and to keep striving towards the target.

In a little over three weeks, I shaved 44 seconds off my baseline mile time. I won’t take my next time trial for a few weeks time, and I have a little over a month left to hit my final target.

On track.

A new path.