Are you half walking / half running?

I’ve met some amazing teachers in my life, but last week two 8 year olds taught me a BIG lesson about peak performance that I won’t soon forget.

I got to the station late, and the train I wanted was already arriving on a distant platform. So I started the half walking, half running thing.

Tense, slightly anxious, trying to work out if I’m going to make it or not, second guessing the outcome, is it worth the effort to really go for it? Will I miss it anyway? Why does my bag keep falling off of my shoulder!?

I see a young mum and two children running for the same train. I can tell from the strain on the mum’s face that she’s having the same thoughts that I am. Are we going to make it? Should we even try? Half walk — half run.

But the kids….

smiling, wide eyed, running relaxed, enjoying the moment. They aren’t second guessing, they aren’t thinking about getting the train or not, they’re just running… It’s a game, a good game! Go go go! “come on Mum!”

I suddenly realize that we’re all doing the same activity — running for the train, but the kids are doing it way better than the adults.

Let’s look at the score board : The kids are running faster than me (performing better) smiling (feeling better) and living in a world where getting the train doesn’t really matter (less stressed than me). Kids: 3, Me: zero, zip, zilch.

They smile, I take the lesson and smile back. I lighten up, and jog up the stairs to the next platform, the game is on, and you know, it is quite fun after all.

And POW! I realize that I’ve been using the possibility of missing the train as a stick to get myself there: when I think that I’ll just about catch the train — I slow down, when I think that I might indeed miss it — I speed up.

It’s SO easy to fall into half walking / half running… doing things just well enough to guard against failure, while not committing everything, just in case the effort is wasted.

It’s also the classic way that animals respond to training by punishment. They do ‘just enough’ to avoid the stick. But you won’t get any more out of them, and they hate the experience.

I don’t ‘need’ to get the train in order to enjoy the jog to it. The kids didn’t ‘need’ the train, and it didn’t stop them running, it didn’t make them passive or station-ary (sorry, couldn’t resist ;o)

They played the game, enjoyed themselves, and if they got the train… fantastic. If they didn’t, well that’s fine too. Fun, high performance, and no struggle in sight… They had ‘the groove’.

So what are you half walking, half running towards?

Speeding up because of fear of some punishment, a potential missed deadline, additional cost, or missed opportunity. Slowing down when everything’s looking fine and on track. Bouncing along the bottom of acceptable performance.

Those half running, half walking areas of your life are where you are using stressful thoughts and self punishment to motivate yourself… whether consciously or not. They are symptoms of the stick.

Think on that for a moment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What comes to mind? Where do you half walk half run?

G.K. Chesterton said that ‘the Angels fly because they take themselves so lightly.’ I don’t know about flying, but we all made the train… and three of us were smiling.

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