My second article in the Living With Purpose series highlights the importance of simplicity in the journey to focus on the three Ps: passion, purpose, and perseverance. These are the three vital ingredients for endurance running. And actually, they’re essential ingredients for everything in life. Anything we choose to take on, be it a project, a new work venture, a journey – anything we set out to achieve – should receive our full focus, all our energy, and a whole heap of determination. If not, it’s simply not worth doing at all. It makes me think of the age-old adage – if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
My passion is ultra-distance running, something that by its very nature requires focus and dedication. In these sessions, I’ll be using the analogy of running as a metaphor for life. For me, running epitomises the three Ps – passion, purpose and perseverance.
Endurance running is not about speed as much as it is about going the distance. The same applies to life. Isn’t it so that life is not so much about the destination but the journey to get there.
Ultra means far, and far can be anything from 30 miles to, well, several days with minimal sleep. Sometimes competition amongst participants in a race is tight, and careful self-management is crucial. Other times the race is more about pushing through arduous conditions, like weather or particularly tough terrain.
Whatever the distance, however the conditions, the race will be long, and in the end it’s only with yourself. The same applies to life. Really, we’re only answerable to ourselves, not to anyone else. Not to our parents, our bosses, our mentors, our sponsors, our partners, our friends. Ultimately, if we fall, it’s only us we fail, no one else.
It was the French teacher and historian Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, who said the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. That the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
Starting running can be daunting. Knowing that the activity can be tough and asks a lot of us, can be intimidating. Often, beginners might be inspired after watching a great race on TV, or find the idea of physical challenge appealing, but not know how or where to start. Concerns about how to breathe whilst running, how to fuel and hydrate properly, and what kit to wear are all common questions, and can clutter and complicate the sheer simplicity of running.
A good way to start is by not overthinking things – rather leap straight in. Keep it simple – get advice on a decent pair of running shoes and just get running! Don’t stress about your pace, and don’t worry if you feel the need to walk often to catch your breath. Don’t get bogged down in the detail – you’ve started, and that’s a great achievement. Keep it up, and soon you’ll find you’re needing to walk less often during a run, and will be able to keep a steady pace.
I really believe this applies to everything in life – it’s so easy to clutter the path ahead, so that we end up floundering before we’ve even taken our first step. Keep things simple: don’t leap in blind, sure, but find a balance where we’re equipped enough to start, but not bogged down in too much unnecessary detail. That way we keep the path ahead clear for us to learn – learn as we go along, and learn from others who’re further along the path.
The smoothest paths, the most awe-inspiring views, the most beautiful songs, poems and works of art are often the simplest. By keeping things as simple as possible, we allow ourselves to see more clearly. The essence of the three Ps – passion, purpose and perseverance – is driven by simplicity. Too often we find ourselves bogged down by thoughts of having to take on something we perceive to be big, and the very notion of starting seems to overwhelm us. That’s when we need to take a step back, breathe a deep breath, and simplify the task down to the basics. Cut the complexity and see the simplicity. Suddenly the path ahead will look clearer, more do-able. With clarity comes new beginnings.
Over the next few days, have a look at your daily routine, and identify the clutter. See how much space and time it consumes, and think about how freed up you’d be for new beginnings if you simplified that clutter. When beginning something new the temptation is to overthink things and to get bogged down in detail. Work rather at keeping things simple, and you’ll not only see your path more clearly but your pace so much easier to maintain.