How to Use an IRONMAN Mentality to Achieve Your Goals
No one starts a race hoping to almost finish. If you’ve trained enough to step up to the starting line, you have every intention of crossing the finish line. In both business and athletics, everyone has the potential to achieve great things, but relatively few turn their dreams into reality. I’ve read countless articles about how to set goals and follow through with them, but finishing an IRONMAN triathlon showed me how to run (and swim and bike) in a way that set me up to achieve beyond my wildest expectations.
When setting goals as a leader, adopting an IRONMAN mindset can help you stay nimble enough to respond to the market, create conditions for success, and cross the finish line with your head held high.
It’s All About the Last 10 Miles
An IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, ending with a marathon run (26.2 miles). If your mental math isn’t the best, that’s a grand total of 140.6 miles that must be covered in less than 17 hours to earn the title “IRONMAN.”
But out of all 140.6 miles, the most important are the final 10. There’s no title for completing 130 miles. If you give up on the final stretch when your body is at its weakest, all your hard work amounts to nothing. The race doesn’t care how “fit” you are if you don’t use those abilities to execute your strategy and cross the finish line. Your fitness is simply the vehicle you use to get there.
In business, your knowledge and experience are your catalysts, but the market doesn’t care how impressive your credentials are. Whether your hard work gets you the results you want is largely dependent upon how well you execute strategic decision-making.
So much of today’s corporate focus is about the quarterly results, this month’s sales results, and weekly accomplishments. And while short-term results and steady progress are essential to tracking success and achieving long-term goals, you should always keep your eye on the finish line.
Although the last 10 miles are the most important, you can’t underestimate the first 130. That’s when you have to create the conditions needed for success in the last 10 miles. Your decision-making at the beginning and middle of your endeavor will determine how it ends.
Here are three ways you can apply lessons from the IRONMAN race to your business:
1. Prepare your goals.
Minutes before starting my first IRONMAN, I was scared that I wasn’t prepared, I wouldn’t finish, and I would disappoint all the people who supported me. These feelings were coming from a place of fear, and to succeed, I had to fall back on my training and my confidence in the realistic goals I had set for myself months before.
In business, you spend a great deal of time poised at the starting line, ready to make your next move. To make the healthiest decisions, your goals need to be concrete yet easy to revise to stay marketable and have a high level of executive readiness.
2. Focus on the big picture instead of speed.
In the IRONMAN race, your body is your only driving force. It’s an accomplishment just to finish, but there are people who actually compete to set the best time. The biggest misconception is that it’s about who goes the fastest — it’s actually about who slows down the least.
In our 24/7, technology-enabled world, speed is vital: speed to get to market, stifle the competition, and launch the latest innovation. But sustained success truly relies on steady progress and the willpower to continue. Reaching the end goal requires reacting to changes and assessing your performance as you ride the crests and persevere through the ruts.
Through all the ups and downs, stay mindful of the big picture so you can create the conditions that will lead to success later.
3. Finish what you started.
With the finish line in sight, adrenaline courses through your body, and tunnel vision sets in. Nothing matters more than crossing the finish line. The only problem is that your body is aching, your blisters are bleeding, and you’re running on sheer force of will for those last few miles.
In business, don’t wait to make your move. After you’ve evaluated the risks and opportunities and are prepared to execute your strategy, go for it. It’s incredibly satisfying to put your plan into motion, but too many leaders falter just before reaching the finish line, and that window of opportunity slams shut. Remember, you have to push through those last few miles of anguish to actually achieve your goal.
There are many lessons sports can teach you about business, but the two disciplines aren’t identical. In business, you don’t usually get to run across a literal line with your fist in the air and tears of joy and relief running down your face. Your accomplishments may not be obvious to outsiders or as concrete as running a triathlon, but you understand your organization’s goals and what you did to accomplish them. When you create the right conditions, enter your race prepared, and run it well, you can finish like an IRONMAN.
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About Bobbie LaPorte
Bobbie LaPorte is the founder and CEO of RAL & Associates, a career management and leadership development firm that works with senior-level executives to help them create a clear vision for their professional goals. Prior to founding RAL & Associates, Bobbie served as GM, COO, and CMO at Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, GE,…