The Peloton May Not Stop, but life has more finish lines than we think.
A recent post by a colleague shared the story of Deshauna Barber, a young woman who tried to win a state beauty pageant for 6 years before finally taking first place and it led to her being crowned Miss America, a great story of resilience, focus and persistence.
Let’s pin that for a minute while I share my passion for cycling and the amazing multi-part documentary of the Tour de France on Netflix. As a cyclist, I’ve experienced - in a small way - the commitment needed to ride long distances and climb hills. Over several years, I have logged thousands of miles along with thousands of feet of climbing. My average speed is 14-16 mph. On a short wind-at-my-back ride I might average 18-20 mph. Compare my "struggles" to all riders in the Tour peloton (the main group of cyclists in a race) who average 25 mph. AVERAGE! Oh, and that is averaged across 2100 miles over 23 days which includes 35 miles of climbing. I’m convinced no athlete in any sport trains or works as hard as these athletes. And forget about falling! If a fallen rider is bruised or scraped but can still ride, they must get up because as one veteran team leader stated with no irony, “The peloton does not stop!”
What does this have to do with a beauty contest and when does “relax” come in? My response to the post was that contests, races, and sport in general is a “constrained” action. It has a defined finish line and there are official winners and losers. I wondered, “Who are the winners in the unconstrained game of life?”
Many translate life or work goals into constrained finish lines and by not crossing one becomes a loser. I have learned from Dr. Sid Parnes, a co-founder with Alex Osborn of brainstorming and the Creative Problem Solving process that not hitting a goal would be better viewed as “not yet”.
I offer that our work life is much different from elite competitions. While we may face deadlines and team responsibilities they are not always as hard and fast as those in sports. With greater levels of awareness we can adjust our focus, reset team responsibilities and move deadlines as needed. Which brings me to “relax”. In addition to rest and recovery (which will be the topic of a future post), relax is also the opposite of rigid. The image of rigid might be one who is always in singularly-focused full-bore go-mode. In that state, it’s near impossible to slow down, look up and over the intensity of what is happening in the here and now. Relax is a super-power that can move your mindset from a sport-like unbreakable finish line to a life-like fluid and flexible anything-is-possible outcome that bridges “not
yets” into “what’s next” or “what else” instead of “we lost”. The phrase “moving the goal posts” seems to have a bad rap these days but might it not be true of Deshauna that she was relaxed enough to move her goal posts year after year by telling herself “not yet?”
When is the next time you can give that a try?