In a fascinating presentation given by video game designer Jane McGonigal she mentioned that one of the five regrets most frequently voiced by hospice patients is how they wish they had lived their lives true to their dreams instead of what others expected of them. How tragic it would be to arrive at this stage of your life and have a regret this significant!
As I watched Jane’s presentation I was reminded of advice I was given many years ago by my college track coach. I was near the end of a race rounding the final turn heading into the straightaway toward the finish line and while I was running I kept looking over my shoulder at the guys behind me.
When I finished (Well back in the pack of course!) and even before I could re-gain my breath my coach let me know in a very “animated fashion” just how he felt about my looking back over my shoulder. “If you were running as hard as you could run you wouldn’t have to worry about the next guy” he told me. Then his next words really struck home: “Chuck, run your OWN race!”
I’m sure Coach Evans wouldn’t remember the blistering life lesson he taught me that day. In fact, I doubt he remembers me at all! (I wasn’t exactly an elite runner.) Honestly, I wasn’t looking over my shoulder to see where the second place finisher was. I was looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t going to finish last! But the lesson was no less significant. Run your own race!
This advice holds true on many different levels. “Run your own race” should be an abiding principle in running a race, running a business or trying to run your life. I find it regrettable how often we measure our success based on how successful someone else appears to be with their business.
The challenge is most of us have an over-active need for the approval of others. In the process, we let other people or things get in the way of what we could (and should) be. Even worse, we don’t achieve what we personally want out of life.
Small businesses are reflections of what their owners believe about themselves in two ways. A) What we believe we’re capable of achieving and B) what we believe we deserve to achieve. We run our businesses based on these beliefs. (Many of these beliefs we learned when we were kids.)
If the other runners had beaten me in that particular race how would it have changed the way I view myself? Would I have given any thought to the 99% of the population who couldn’t have finished that race at all? Would I have thought, “How can I use my energy, drive, and competitiveness to further my own goals in life?” Or would I have defined myself by the fact that other human beings happened to beat me this ONE time in this ONE race?
When I was looking over my shoulder to see how the other runners were doing I was diverting my energy away from what I should have been focused on—running as hard as I could run (regardless of where the other runners were) and focusing on the finish line.
Coach Evans and many hospice patients have it right. Run your own race. Live your life true to your own dreams and not someone else’s. The person we should try to measure up to is the person we’re capable of being.