I Have Quit!

quit

Recently I read of a man who had tried for years to overcome his drinking habit. He knew his drinking was taking a toll on his life and was costing him many opportunities. He tried every way he could think of to quit and failed each time. Finally he developed a habit, whenever he was offered a drink or when temptation arose, to say firmly, “I have quit.”

It wasn’t “I’m trying to quit” or “I’m going to quit.” It was “I have quit.” End of discussion. There was no more deliberation or debate after that. The decision was already made that “I have quit drinking.” He didn’t have to think about whether he should take the drink or not. He simply said, “I have quit” as if it were a simple, ordinary fact of life. As a result of using this method, the man hasn’t taken another drink in twenty years.

You can use the same technique for a number of obstacles in your life that you are trying to overcome, whether it’s smoking, overeating, lack of exercise, cutting out fat in your diet, overcoming pornography or drugs or any challenge you are dealing with. You don’t have to deliberate or debate it any more. You can simply say, “I have quit!”

Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.

Addictions – Fighting the Fire Within

FIREMillions of people all over the world struggle with addictions every day. There are many kinds of addictions such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or food. In this article I share a simple concept that can help in dealing with addictions.

Fire Analogy

When I was a kid I liked to play with matches. It was fun. I loved to watch things burn. But as you know, playing with matches can be very dangerous. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that my family had two homes burn down during my growing up years. (I have solid alibis!)

I like to compare addictions to fire. Think about a match. You can strike a match and how hard is it to put out a match? One little puff of your breath and you can blow it out. No problem. Another match lights, puff, blow it out. No problem. However, when you let a fire go, it can quickly rage out of control where there is nothing you can do about it. At that point you’re basically lost, it’s out of control, and it’s beyond anything you can do about it.

I know about this concept personally. Let me share with you two stories from my life.

Out of Control Campfire Number 1

The first story took place when I was probably in kindergarten. My older brother Kurt and I built a campfire in our back yard. We had planned to melt some lead in a tin can over the fire. Our back yard was fairly large and there was a big lawn. But on the side of the yard there was a garden area that was full of dry weeds and grass. This is where we chose to build our fire. Well my brother made the mistake of leaving me alone by the fire.

We had some newspapers there that we used to start the fire with and I decided to take a page from the newspaper and lay it over our little campfire. The first thing it did was burst into flames. Then because heat rises, this flaming newspaper floated up into the air and drifted right over into the dry weeds and grass which immediately burst into flames.

Now I must have been around six years old or something and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to put it out by stamping on it but that didn’t work. I could not get it out and it was beyond my control. The fire grew bigger and bigger and was racing toward the fence, the new fence that my dad built, and proceeded to catch the fence on fire.

The fire department was called and they came and put out the fire. Luckily I didn’t get into too much trouble but my brother Kurt did.

Out of Control Campfire Number 2

The second story happened when I was older, probably about eleven years old. Across the highway from our house, about a mile away, there was a thickly wooded area that surrounded several ponds where turtles and carp lived. I loved to go over there and catch them and play around. There was thick brush and trees all around the ponds and in the hot Arizona climate a lot of those trees had dried out and died.

My older brothers and I decided to go camping there one summer afternoon. We each had our own little camping spots, as I recall, and my older brother Russell even built a little campfire.

Well, he began to play with his little fire. He took a stick and would poke the end of it into his campfire and catch it on fire. Then he would take the flaming stick and use it to light some dry brush nearby and watch it burn. Then he would quickly put it out. He did this several times, letting the flames get larger each time. (Can you see here where I’m going with this!)

Well, one time he let it go too far and when he tried to put it out he couldn’t. He started screaming at the rest of us to come help him. We all ran over to his campsite and started stamping and throwing dirt on the fire but it was too late. In moments the fire roared into a huge inferno.

We snatched our sleeping bags and got the heck out of there. We ran back across the highway and hid on the other side. From there we watched that whole place go up in gigantic, fifty-foot flames. Farmers from all around drove up in their pickup trucks to see what was going on and to try and put the fire out but they couldn’t do it. The whole place went up in smoke and flames all because my brother was playing around with fire.

Don’t Play With Fire

Now sometimes we want to play figuratively with fire, to look at that image on the internet, to take just one puff of the cigarette, to eat just one more donut. We think, “I’m stressed out today and I just don’t feel so good. I’ll do it just this once and that’s it. Then I’ll stop.” Well that’s kind of like lighting a match, but instead of blowing the match out when that first thought comes into our mind we touch it to some dry grass and say, “I’ll let it go for a little bit and then I’ll put it out.” So we watch it grow and it gets bigger and bigger and before we know it, it’s gotten so large that we try stamping it out but it’s going in all directions and try as we might we cannot put it out and it rages out of control until it consumes us.

This is the way addictions work. They are very similar to these examples in that if you play around with it and you don’t put it out right away when that flame first starts it becomes so much harder. It grows out of control to the point where you’re had, you’re done, you’re ashes, you’re toast.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when the flame is tiny, put it out. When the match strikes, put it out. Don’t dwell on it, don’t play with it or you’ll get burned. It’s so much easier to control these desires, appetites and cravings when they are but a tiny spark than when we let them grow into a huge inferno. So, that’s my simple lesson for today.

Thank you.
Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Not Repression, But Self-Mastery

Self-Mastery

(This is an excerpt from the book THIS MYSTICAL LIFE OF OURS by Ralf Waldo Trine, first published in the 1907 and is now in the public domain.)

From what has been said let it not be inferred that the body, the physical, material life is to be despised or looked down upon. This, rather let it be said, is one of the crying errors of the times, and prolific of a vast amount of error, suffering, and shame. On the contrary, it should be thought all the more highly of: it should be loved and developed to its highest perfections, beauties, and powers. God gave us the body not in vain. It is just as holy and beautiful as the spirit itself. It is merely the outward material manifestation of the individualized spirit; and we by our hourly thoughts and emotions are building it, are determining its conditions, its structure, and appearance.

Every part, every organ, every function of the body is just as clean, just as beautiful, just as sweet, and just as holy as every other part; and it is only by virtue of man’s perverted ways of looking at some that they become otherwise, and the moment they so become, abuses, ill uses, suffering, and shame creep in.

Not repression, but elevation. Would that this could be repeated a thousand times over! Not repression, but elevation. Every part, every organ, every function of the body is given for use, but not for misuse or abuse; and the moment the latter takes place in connection with any function it loses its higher powers of use, and there goes with this the higher powers of true enjoyment.

No, a knowledge of the spiritual realities of life prohibits asceticism, repression, the same as it prohibits license and perverted use. To err on the one side is just as contrary to the ideal life as to err on the other. All things are for a purpose, all should be used and enjoyed; but all should be rightly used, that they may be fully enjoyed.

It is the threefold life and development that is wanted, — physical, mental, spiritual. This gives the rounded life, and he or she who fails in any one comes short of the perfect whole. The physical has its uses just the same and is just as important as the others. The great secret of the highly successful life is, however, to infuse the mental and the physical with the spiritual; in other words, to spiritualize all, and so raise all to the highest possibilities and powers.

It is the all-around, fully developed we want, — not the ethereal, pale-blooded man and woman, but the man and woman of flesh and blood, for action and service here and now, — the man and woman strong and powerful, with all the faculties and functions fully unfolded and used, all in a royal and bounding condition, but all rightly subordinated. The man and the woman of this kind, with the imperial hand of mastery upon all, — standing, moving thus like a king, nay, like a very God, — such is the man and such is the woman of power. Such is the ideal life: anything else is one-sided, and falls short of it.

The Self-Mastery Muscle

Weight TrainingGood morning! I want to talk about equating Self Mastery to a muscle. Think about the muscles in your body and how you go about exercising them. Have you have ever gone to a gym and lifted weights on a bench press before? Suppose you’ve never done this and you decide you’re going to get in shape by lifting weights at the gym. You start your training by putting 300 pounds of weights on the barbell. When you go to lift the barbell with 300 pounds on it, guess what? You’re going to fail! There’s no doubt about it, you’re going to fail. It’s just too much weight for you to lift. You can’t start off lifting 300 pounds! You have to start off with any easy weight, a weight you can manage, something that you’re able and capable of lifting.

When you work on muscles, you have to start off with a weight you can lift and then gradually work your way up. So maybe you have to start off at 110 pounds. Let’s say you do the 110 pounds for a while and you do it long enough to where it now becomes easier. So the next thing you do is you add 10 pounds to that. Now you’re lifting 120 pounds. You work on that for a while until it becomes easier. When 120 pounds becomes easier then you add 10 more pounds. You continue on up like this, gradually adding more and more weight to strengthen the muscles in your arms.

We can relate it also to running. I can remember training for my first marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles long. My good wife Lisa was my trainer. We didn’t start off by doing a 26-mile run. We didn’t even start off doing a 5-mile run. I don’t think I had ever even run more than five miles in my life. I couldn’t even run a full mile when I began my training. I’ll never forget the first time we ran three miles. I distinctly remember that when we completed the three miles I collapsed on the ground gasping for air. I remember that I was so thrilled that I had actually run three miles! It was a major accomplishment for me.

The way we trained for the marathon was to run two miles every morning, Monday through Thursday, and then rest on Friday. Then on Saturdays we would do a long run. Each Saturday morning we would add a mile or two to our long runs. So our first long run was three miles. Then the next week our long run was four miles. Then five miles the next week. Gradually, week after week, we worked our way up to where our final training run before the marathon was 24 miles. I remember that day, running the 24-mile long run, and thinking back to our first three-mile run and thinking, “Wow! Three miles is nothing! Running three miles is so easy!” Now we were running 24 miles! We worked up to it gradually over time. If we would have tried to run 24 miles that first day it would have been a huge failure and I would have given up and would have never completed a marathon.

So how does that relate to self-mastery? Well, every thing about a marathon is self-mastery! But a marathon, like weight lifting, teaches us that you can’t do it all at once and this applies to self-mastery in other areas of your life. You can’t change everything all at once.

So I’m relating this all to self-mastery and the changes that you want to make in your life. If self-mastery is like a muscle then you must work on it like you would work on a muscle. You must strengthen that self-mastery muscle by starting off with small and easy things and then gradually work your way up.

So how do you do this? I suggest you look at your life and determine what needs to change. Make a list of all the changes you would like to make. Then take one thing and focus on it. Work on it for a week or two until it becomes easy for you. Then begin the next thing. Gradually strengthen your self-mastery muscle one change at a time.

I have been doing this for a while. In fact I started on August 1st of this year and made some major commitments to myself of changes I desire to make.

More recently, as part of this process, I have focused on exercising every morning except Sundays. That’s what I focused on and now it has become a habit and even perhaps an addiction – a positive addiction.

Currently I am focused on getting to bed on time every night. When I get good at that then I will move on to my next goal. I have a series of improvements that I want to make in my life that I call my self-mastery goals. I can’t do them all at once. So I work on one thing at a time until it becomes a habit, until I strengthen that self-mastery muscle. Then I move on to the next one.

So in summary, the message for today is that self-mastery is like a muscle which needs to be exercised in a gradual, progressive way. Examine your life, determine what you want to change, and then work on one thing at a time.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

The Finish LineI have run thirteen marathons so far in my life and each was an amazing experience in itself. However, none of the marathons I have run compares with the experience of running my first one. It was one of those events in life you never forget. I would like to share with you that experience and the life lessons I learned from it.

Many years ago I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish sometime in my life. On my list were things like traveling around the world, getting a pilot’s license, running a marathon, and visiting the pyramids of Egypt. I put the list away and promptly forgot about it.

A few years ago my wife found my list and was surprised to know that I had a desire to run a marathon. She stole my goal, trained for it and ran a marathon. I was totally amazed that she actually did it. In fact, I was so impressed I said to myself, if she can do it, so can I. And I did.

Running a marathon is no small thing. A marathon is 26.2 miles long or about 44,500 steps. To get a grasp of how far that distance really is, I suggest the next time you take a drive in your car to set your trip meter. Watch the miles tick off and when you get to 26.2 miles think about running that distance. Again, it is no small task.

Running a marathon is a unique experience. It is the only sports competition that I am aware of where the greenest beginner can rub shoulders with and compete with the elite athletes of the world. You don’t find that in football, or basketball, or golf or any other sport. But in a marathon, I was running with the Kenyans!

To train properly for a marathon you must begin nearly a year in advance. When I began my training I couldn’t run two miles. But week after week, month after month, with the training and guidance from my sweet wife, we gradually built up our miles. This means running 2 or 3 miles a day for four days a week, resting on Fridays and then running a longer run on Saturday mornings.

The Saturday morning training runs get longer and longer. Our final Saturday training run before the marathon was 24 miles long. On that training run we started at 5:00 a.m. It was pitch dark. On just that run we encountered many deer, a fox, a skunk, a mother raccoon and her babies, 2 owls, a rabbit and a snake. So after many such training runs totaling over 800 miles and wearing out a $75 pair of running shoes, we were ready for the St. George, Utah marathon.

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. –Emil Zatopek

I love that quote because it is so true. Running a marathon is truly a remarkable experience. I would like to give you a small taste of what that experience was like for me. This is taken from my personal journal.

My First Marathon Experience – from my journal dated October 1, 1999

What an awesome day! Lisa and I just ran the St. George Marathon. It went great. We got up this morning at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast and then I shaved and took a shower. We got our running gear on and went out the door at 5:00 a.m. We walked to the busses at the park. It was still very dark. We boarded our bus and rode up to the beginning of the race.

The bus ride up was long and bumpy and by the time we got to the top I really needed to use the restroom. Luckily they had tons of porta-potties and I was able to go. That was a huge relief!

When they dropped us off it was pretty cold and we were wearing our sweats. There were huge lights lighting the whole area. Thousands of people were there to run the race. They had loud motivating music playing. It was an exciting atmosphere with everyone visiting and talking about the race. It was awesome!

To keep people warm they had lit a large number of campfires and for a while Lisa and I kept warm that way. But Mother Nature was not to leave me alone and before long I needed to go again. Now the lines at the porta-potties were very long. Since this time was not “big business,” I just went off into the bushes to go. I found myself surrounded (in the dark) by many other men and women runners doing the same thing. It was pretty weird. This was something I would never in my life imagine me doing and yet there I was sharing a moment of relief with a bunch of other fellow runners.

Well, before long it was near the time for the race to start. We took off our sweats bottoms and put them in a collection bag provided to us so we could get them back later. We met up with some friends who wanted to run with us. There was so much noise that we could hardly hear the starting gun go off, but it did. Soon we were off and running. It was still dark.

The others who were going to run with us were soon lost in the sea of runners except for Marilyn. I have to admit that I was a little bugged at first that she was running with us because I felt she was horning in on Lisa’s and my run. But her constant talking and conversation turned out to be a blessing as the miles ticked by much quicker than I had anticipated they would. She was a real blessing in disguise. She was also very spunky and pushed us enough to get us to do better than we had ever done before.

It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the thousands of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of us and behind us for as far as we could see.

The Run

The water stops were every two miles and at each one I usually took one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water and mixed the two and drank it. At some water stops I took bananas to eat. They were cut up into small pieces. At two of the stops I took some of that goo stuff to eat. I think it all helped.

What an incredible experience – the whole thing from start to finish. The miles ticked off one by one. Veyo hill came and went. Then the long, gradual hill. At the top of it I wasn’t doing so well. I was getting tired and queasy in the stomach. I had a strong urge to walk. Finally after what seemed like an eternity of uphill we came to long downhills. We needed that. It was great to see down into the valley where St. George was.

Along the way there were small groups of people cheering us on. There was a helicopter flying low filming us along with a ground camera crew on four-wheelers. We tried to look good for the cameras.

Marilyn told us about her previous marriage and her family and her new marriage and her job. My, could she talk! It was interesting and kept our attention off our misery and pain and helped us pass the time.

At mile marker 16 we came to the road that goes to Snow Canyon. There were many people there cheering us on and giving us high-fives. Boy did that give me a boost.

On we went mile after mile. One of my biggest worries was my lower left leg. I had had so many problems on my training runs with my calf, my knee and my foot. Luckily my prayers were answered and I had no serious problems.

Finally we rounded the bend where you could see the city. Now there were more people cheering us on. It was great! At mile 23 Marilyn took off ahead of us. Lisa and I were slowing down. We did a lot of walking those two miles. Finally we rounded the corner to the final stretch. By this time both of my knees were starting to really hurt. We really had to push ourselves now even with the finish line in sight.

We were now at the final stretch. We were in what they call the chute where the street is lined with crowds of people on both sides. They were cheering us on. It gave us both such a boost of energy and we stepped up our pace. Then we came to the bleachers and saw our four little children cheering us on. With a burst of energy we sprinted for the finish, holding hands as we crossed it. Then we kissed each other. Wow! What a great feeling to cross that finish line! How can you possibly describe it?

The Medals

As we walked on through they put the finisher medal around each of our necks. We really earned them. And our time? Well, we told ourselves long ago we would be happy with anything between 4 ½ to 5 hours. Based on our training runs I was expecting closer to 5 hours. Well, we came in at 4 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Wow, even better than we had expected. Everything went so well.

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

I hope that gives you some idea of what it was like. For the full effect you’re going to have to run a marathon yourself. Now, let me share with you 13 lessons I learned from that remarkable experience.

1. Anyone can run a marathon. I used to have a picture in my mind of what a marathon runner looked like – a wafer thin gazelle-type person from Kenya. After running my first marathon that image changed dramatically. I was amazed at the variety of people running the race. I realized that size doesn’t matter. A friend I trained with was nearly twice my weight and would consume what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade at each water stop and yet he was a much faster runner than I was. Age doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you how many old ladies passed me during that first marathon. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon. It was amazing.

2. Coming in first doesn’t matter. Finishing does. In a marathon, everyone that crosses the finish line is a winner and receives a medal. That’s good because I certainly am not a fast runner. Just making it to the end is a major accomplishment. I think life is like that. To be successful you don’t have to have the most or be the best or the fastest – just make it gracefully to the end.

3. Make it through the trial mile. My wife and I have come to learn that the first mile of each training run was always the trial mile. It was the mile you had to get through before your heart and body warmed up and got into its rhythm. Basically you feel lousy during that first mile. But if you can make it through it you always felt better during the following miles. Some people never make it through the “trial mile” of whatever endeavor they are pursuing. So hang in there, it gets better.

4. Don’t skip the training. I have run marathons where I trained well and I have run marathons where I skimped on the training. You are so much better off when you properly train. The pain and misery and injuries that occur when you attempt something you haven’t trained well for are not worth it. Do the proper training.

5. Cheering really works. We’ve all been to sporting events and yelled and cheered for our team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on. We all need cheering from time to time in our lives.

6. We need friends. Good company makes any journey more pleasant.

7. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life.

8. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When I first began training for a marathon I would start off running at a quick pace. I would do well for a mile or so and then run completely out of gas. My wife had to tell me I needed to slow down and take it easy. I had to pace myself. It wasn’t easy at first but I soon learned I couldn’t spend all I had during the first mile or I would never make it through the other 25.2 miles. In many other areas of life the same rule applies. Pace yourself.

9. You need a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But in looking back at my training for my first marathon, I can’t imagine doing it without the help of my wife who had the experience of training for and running a marathon herself. It was so great to have her lead me and guide me literally every step of the way. Don’t be too proud to let others show you the way.

10. The mind game matters. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, its much more than that. It is as much a mind game as a physical game. After all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. And let me tell you, after 25 miles of running, some weird things can go on in there. It’s a constant mental battle that must be fought to succeed.

11. We need mile markers. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. During the St. George marathon every mile was marked by a large silver mylar balloon. You could see it coming up from quite a distance away. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker. When you passed each one you felt a sense of progress and accomplishment. Then you would set your sights on the next one. In life, we need short-term goals to help us reach our long-term goals.

12. The more you do something, the better you get at doing it. Sounds simple enough and it is. Think about the first time you did any hard thing such as playing the piano, typing at the computer, or driving a car. They were all difficult at first and yet, as time went on and you worked at it every day, it became easier, almost second nature. Just because something is hard at first doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you haven’t done it enough yet.

13. Be inspired by others. I had set a goal years ago to run a marathon. Nothing ever happened with it until I watched my wife Lisa do it. When I watched her come across that finish line I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did. Having a goal was nothing. Being inspired by a great woman was everything.

To conclude let me share with you one final lesson, the biggest lesson of all:

Life is like a marathon. You get out of it what you put into it.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson